“Last summer, we called it ‘sold-out summer.’ This season, we’re calling it ‘sold-out summer,’ plus ‘sold-out fall’, plus ‘sold-out spring. “We are seeing continuing insane demand for travel.” - Clint Henderson, managing editor at The Points Guy
Summer Travel Expectations and What May Weaken Future Demand
By: U.S. Travel Association
This summer, air travel demand is expected to be the strongest since pre-pandemic—and potentially the strongest ever. Over a quarter of Americans plan to increase the amount they are spending on leisure travel in the next three months (26%) up from 19% in Q1.
Despite a banking crisis, increasing interest rates a debt ceiling face off in Washington and higher travel prices, Americans continue to book trips. AAA predicted that more than 40 million Americans traveled over the recent Memorial Day weekend, 7% higher than 2022.
TSA reported that nearly 10 million Americans passed through security check points at airports over the recent Memorial Day holiday, 11% higher than 2022 and about 300,000 more than the same holiday weekend in 2019.
- Air travel demand was consistent with AAA’s predictions that more than three million Americans were forecast to fly—up 11% from last year.
What’s more: as of early April, just over half of all Americans (53%) and 81% of leisure travelers have travel planned in the next six months.
- And six in 10 Americans and seven in 10 leisure travelers agree that taking time off to travel is more important than ever—significantly higher than what Americans reported in January (35%).
Expedia reported that flight searches are up 25% overall for June through August compared to the same time last year with the top domestic U.S. destinations including New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Orlando and Las Vegas.
What else: Even though demand will continue to be strong, the toll of inflation and higher interest rates is impacting spending behaviors. Close to three in 10 travelers (29%) plan to save money by selecting less expensive accommodations or destinations, closely followed by 28% who plan to engage in cheaper activities.
As a result of more people traveling again—not just avid travelers who continued to travel throughout the pandemic, Deloitte also found that while trip frequency is up, trip spend and duration of many American’s main summer vacation is down compared to 2022.
- Nearly four in 10 travelers (38%) this summer expect their longest trip will last a week or more—down from 68% in 2022.
Airlines, airports and TSA are actively preparing for the upcoming busy travel season, yet the air travel system is not equipped to handle this level of demand.
A4A reported that they expect airlines will carry more than 250 million travelers between June 1 and August 31—1% higher than 2019. Yet, flight capacity is expected to be down roughly 11% due to operational constraints including new aircraft delays and air traffic controller shortages.
Go deeper: Airlines are hiring at a rapid pace and have increased wages to be more competitive. Yet, several major airlines are trimming summertime service amid concerns about air traffic control staffing levels, which nationwide are at about 80%.
However, the subpar air travel experience is already having a negative impact on travelers.
Two in five Americans (42%) say they have traveled by air for leisure in the past 12 months and 35% of those reported having a flight delayed or cancelled. Less than one-third of recent air travelers (32%) are very satisfied with the air travel experience.
Over half of Americans (52%) say they would travel more for leisure in the next six months if the travel experience was not as much of a hassle, significantly more than Q1 (29%).