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Rising gas prices to affect airlines barely recovered from pandemic hit

United Airlines-Pilots
Posted at 6:28 PM, Mar 09, 2022

As oil prices rise nation-wide, the cost isn't just affecting drivers trying to fill their tanks — it's affecting how much travel overall costs.

"They were really looking forward to the end of one crisis, not expecting the beginning of another so soon," said David Slotnick, senior airline business reporter for travel blog The Points Guy.

After the start of the pandemic tanked travel plans for many Americans, airlines were hoping this year would be somewhat normal. Slotnick said rising oil prices will definitely affect these companies' bottom line.

"Each flight can be tens of thousands of dollars," Slotnick said. "Generally the rule of thumb is, at its worst, jet fuel tends to be about a third of the airline's costs."

The last time gas prices were this high, it was 2008. That crisis spawned the current airline system we all know today.

"That's when bag fees came into play, seat assignment fees," said Slotnicck. "Basically anything that could be commoditized was commoditized."

Slotnick says it's not likely airlines will instate more fees now, since they're already asking travelers to pay for so much, but many low-fare airlines may have to do something to recoup costs.

"They really are going to feel this the worst and they're probably going to have to increase their fares. The good news is that they still need to undercut the other airlines," he said.

Slotnick said travelers can do two things right now to bring down the cost of your trip. First, use up those credit card benefits. He said now is the time to cash in those points as miles or other rewards. The second thing travelers can do is book flights for any upcoming trips as early as possible.

"If you want to travel this summer or spring, really now is the time to book before prices go up. Once you're booked, they're not going to go higher. They can't add a fuel surcharge to that," he said.