October airfares haven’t been this cheap in six years, making the slump between summer and winter holidays suddenly more exciting for people looking to get away.
Tickets to domestic destinations cost an average of $211 this month, according to an analysis by Hopper, an online travel booking platform. That’s a 3.1 percent decrease from this time last year, according to Hayley Berg, Hopper’s chief economist.
It’s not just domestic deals. Travel experts say airfares are falling for international routes, making this the perfect time to travel abroad.
“This year, these low prices are compounded by the same factors we've seen pushing down prices all year,” Berg told NBC News. “Increased competition in the airline industry has driven airlines to expand their fleets and drop prices in an effort to capture a larger piece of the growing demand for travel. In addition to this, we've witnessed the continued entry and expansion of low-cost carriers into the U.S. market.”
Fares to Iceland are forecast to be 42 percent lower than usual for U.S. travelers. They can also expect to see fares slashed by as much as 40 percent for travel to Bangkok, Thailand and 32 percent for Seoul, South Korea. Anyone looking for some warmer weather can expect to save 36 percent on flights to Cancun and 33 percent off a ticket to Medellin, Colombia, according to Hopper’s analysis.
Fares are forecast to be around 30 to 40 percent lower than usual for U.S. travelers to locations such as Iceland, Thailand, and South Korea.
The online booking platform used its historical archive of one trillion flight prices, along with other factors, such as airline capacity, seasonal demand, and jet fuel prices to analyze average October prices. Jet fuel prices fell 6.3 percent compared to the previous month of reporting data, according to Hopper.
Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, a newsletter that lets people follow airports and receive alerts when bargain airfares are found, said this is “the golden age of cheap flights.”
“There is a question that lingers,” he told NBC News. “There have been fares from New York to Paris and New York to Rome for $250. How can the airlines afford to fly people across the ocean at that price and still make a profit?”
Airlines are able to offer these bargain fares because they make their revenue in other areas.
“Most of the revenue they are making comes from premium tickets, people paying for business and first class, and a lot of the money also comes from selling frequent flier miles and credit cards,” he said. “That revenue is subsidizing economy tickets.”
While this is the best October for air travel in recent years, the Hopper team said they aren’t seeing any major effects of the Boeing 737 Max being grounded, with the exception of smaller changes on local routes. United and American Airlines still have a fleet of grounded Max jets, which haven’t yet been cleared for takeoff by the Federal Aviation Administration, leaving them with fewer planes to fly. The model was grounded in March after a flaw in an automated feature was blamed for two deadly crashes.
Finally, there’s good news for people who want to wait to book their flights. Berg advises anyone wanting to lock in their Thanksgiving and Christmas plans to book by Halloween.
However, she said “flight prices will remain mostly stable through the end of the year, with a short-term peak around the Thanksgiving holiday.” In other words, anyone who is tempted to take a spur-of-the-moment trip should still have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the low prices for the next six months.
Cheaper airfares should hold until next March, when spring break demand sends the average domestic ticket price to $227, according to Hopper’s analysis.