Though Americans are feeling the sting of inflation, 2022 holiday travel is expected to be near pre-pandemic levels this year, and some believe that is a sign that the economy is on the rise.
AAA announced that more than 7 million people are planning to board planes this holiday season, despite higher than-usual ticket costs. If the estimate is correct, it means that air travel will be up 14% from last year.
The organization also believes that nearly 113 million people will journey at least 50 miles from home between December 23rd and January 2nd, which is a 3% increase from the same period in 2022.
Overall, travel by planes, trains, and automobiles will be at its highest since pre-pandemic levels in 2019 when nearly 120 Americans visited friends and family for Christmas and New Year.
Those numbers are hopeful for people in the travel industry. As Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, told Fox News, his company is planning for a “mild recession” next year. But looking at their current data, he’d never guess the economy is in trouble.
“If I didn’t read the Wall Street Journal or watch business news, the word ‘recession’ probably wouldn’t even be in my vocabulary right now. The demand environment for air travel is really strong. And we feel good about what the outlook is.”
Bustling 2022 Holiday Travel Points to a ‘Robust’ Economy
In fact, business is so good for United Airlines that Kirby purchased 200 Boeing jets today, which equaled the “largest wide-body order in history.”
While he admitted that the move isn’t so much “a bet on the short-term” as it is on the “long-term,” he said that he’s fairly confident that all signs point to a “robust” economy in the near future.
“People’s ability to travel and willingness to travel will come back 100%,” he added. “And that is, in fact, happening.”
One of the ways United Airlines is seeing that happen is through ticket purchases. Not only are they soaring, but they’re doing so at a much higher cost. Average airfare prices are 6% higher than this time last year. That means that people are more willing to choose convenience over cost.
“If the distance is not reasonable to drive, more people are taking flights to maximize the time spent at their destination,” Paula Twidale, AAA’s Senior Vice President of Travel, said in a press release.
“Conversely, if the travel distances are reasonable and more than one or two people in the household are taking the trip, it may be more cost-effective to drive rather than buy multiple air tickets, rent a car, and spend too much money before the fun even begins.”