2017 Global air travel outlook

Falling ticket prices, surging capacity mean good news for air travelers

With more planes, lower prices, and more destinations than ever before, it’s a great time to take to the skies.

Above all else, this string of facts is the most critical takeaway from the latest iteration of an annual report Expedia publishes in conjunction with Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC).

The study, titled, “New Heights for Air Travel,” chronicles the current state of Average Ticket Prices (ATPs), offers advice on the best dates and times to book for deals, and outlines recent spikes in capacity around the world. Study results were released this morning, and we’re super-happy with what they say.

Here’s a rundown:

Economy ATPs falling worldwide

For starters, our survey results indicate that ATPs for economy round-trip and one-way tickets continued to drop throughout the year and dropped by about 4 percent overall. That means airplane tickets now are at their lowest point since 2013.  It also means that lucky travelers can enjoy price drops of even more, since the 4 percent number is just an average.

Wing. En route to Hawaii.

Wing. En route to Hawaii.

Inter-regional flight prices also falling

Our data indicates that prices for flights from one region to another have fallen, too.  The three itineraries with the biggest price drop include South America to Southeast Asia (31 percent drop), South America to Southern Europe (15 percent), and China to Southern Europe (also 15 percent). That’s great news for anyone flying these region pairs.

Sunday is best to book

Purchasing airplane tickets on Sundays yields the lowest ATPs, according to our data. For domestic flights in the United States, the savings is 11 percent; for flights originating in the United States and heading to Europe, the savings is about 16 percent. Even flights between the U.S. and Asia are less if you book them on Sunday—10 percent less.

When to schedule

The golden rule about how much time in advance to book? Our research indicates the magic number is three weeks. A recent fare search indicated that a ticket between Europe and the United States cost $1,962 when booked less than 21 days before departure but cost around $1,293 when booked more than three weeks in advance, saving $669.

Viewfinder tip: If you are a member of Expedia+ Rewards, book with your member number on the app to receive 2x points through at least middle-January.

Bundle, baby!

One critical – but often overlooked – method to drive savings is for travelers to simultaneously book their flight, hotel, activities, and/or rental car on an online travel agency (such as Expedia!). Industry pricing rules permit package bookings to be offered at a discount, approaching $600 and often exceeding it depending on the route in question.

Saturday night’s all right

If you’re anything like most of us, you probably had heard the rumor that itineraries including Saturday night stays cost less. No-one ever had taken the time to investigate this claim. Nobody until we. It turns out tickets with Saturday-night stays do cost less—up to 57 percent less. Interestingly, itineraries with Friday nights cost near the top of the scale.

Capacity is expanding

Finally, the International Air Transport Association and ARC report that air capacity (i.e., the total number of planes in the sky at any given time) is up about 5 percent globally, which means more airlines are flying more planes to more destinations. Among the biggest destinations for 2017: Havana, Cuba. Mexico City, India (where the economy is booming), and parts of China.

The conclusion: There’s never been a better time to travel by air. In last year’s ARC report, we said air travel was “flying high.” This year it appears we’re flying at an even higher altitude, with great deals for consumers throughout. Our advice: Get out there, stat! (And be sure to get your travel inspiration right here on the Expedia Viewfinder.)

Where will you fly in 2017? For what?

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Sarah Waffle Gavin

As head of PR and communications at Expedia, Sarah Gavin holds responsibility for influential programs for the Expedia brand and is the force behind the creation of the Expedia Viewfinder blog. Sarah has a strong background in technology communications and came to Expedia after six years of working on the Microsoft business for Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. Part foodie, part tech geek, part mom, part traveler, when she's not strolling through the shops of Manhattan or sitting poolside in Mexico, she hangs her hat in the burbs of Seattle, Washington at the intersection of travel, technology, and motherhood.

Latest posts by Sarah Waffle Gavin (see all)