Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Fall air fares may plummet

July 20, 2015

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Summer is the busiest time of the year to travel. But if you can go this fall, you may just get a bargain.

Hopper, the airfare predictor app, is forecasting that that domestic airfares will fall significantly this fall,. It is predicting an average airfare of $248, down 3.6 percent from last fall, and 8.1 percent lower than the fall, 2013.

The numbers come from the company’s latest Consumer Airfare Index, which evaluates and forecasts domestic airfares for leisure travelers.

Alex Mozdzanowska, Hopper’s director of research, tells me her company partners with a number of global distribution systems (GDSs) for its data, similar to what other travel businesses do, but uses it differently.

“When a consumer searches for a flight, they get results and we get a copy. We don’t know anything about the consumer; we only know the origin and destination,” Mozdzanowska said.

“We know how many flights were available that day and how many times they showed up as a response. We aggregate that data to get the information for our report.”

Hopper filters out business, first class and expensive last-minute coach tickets for more accurate fare data, said Mozdzanowska.

“The reason why we do it is because we are trying to target norman consumers. If you’re booking closer to departure, prices go up,” she said. “Instead of taking all prices and averaging them, we can see higher fares and can cut them using an algorithm.”

Air fares naturally drop in the fall because demand and prices go up in the summer when school is out, said Mozdzanowska. “But the data show that fall fares are lower than they’ve been in the past two years,” she said. “Also, fuel prices have been trending down and airlines are facing more competition from low-cost carriers, which tend to drive down prices.”

Other projections in the index included:

  • Domestic airfare will average $259 this month, the drop to $245 in August.
  • Ticket prices peaked in June at $276, in line with its spring predictions of $278.
  • Since releasing the first index in April, Hopper has consistently predicted the next month’s domestic airfare trend within a single percentage point, an error of less than $5.

Hopper’s data can’t specify what destinations will have the best fare deals this fall, said Mozdzanowska, but you can filter origin and destination information, and get the lowest prices for where you want to go.

For story ideas, talk to local consumers and travel agents about places they may travel this fall. Popular destinations include cities near the country’s most popular college football teams, such as Chicago, a quick drive to South Bend, and places across the South.

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