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Why Are Flights So Expensive? (10 Reasons)

 

At some point in your life, you’ll likely fly on an airplane.

Airplanes are currently the fastest method of travel.

They provide a convenient way to travel long distances.

However, you’ll also find that flying is an expensive venture.

Since so many people fly each year, you may wonder why airlines charge so much money for their flights.

 

Why Are Flights So Expensive? (10 Reasons)

Young elegant business woman with hand luggage in international airport terminal, looking at information board, checking her flight. Cabin crew member with suitcase.

 

The average price of a round-trip airline ticket is $330.

Certain factors like the price of fuel, the time of year, and the limited capacity within planes can make those prices surge even higher.

Let’s look at these factors in more detail.

 

1. Jet Fuel

Vilnius Lithuania 2021-08-24 An employee of the ground service of the airport operating the tanker refills the aircraft with aviation fuel.

 

One of the biggest factors that can determine the price of a flight is the price of jet fuel.

Airplanes use gasoline just like any other standard vehicle.

The problem with airplanes, however, is that they use a lot of fuel.

Airplanes have to overcome certain forces like wind resistance, friction, and even gravity.

To overcome those forces, the engine needs to generate a lot of opposing force.

To do so, it burns a lot of gasoline to power its engine.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem.

However, the price of fuel has been considerably high throughout the past few years.

A sudden lack of supply is part of the problem.

Some oil companies have scaled back production.

Whether they need to increase the price of oil or because they’re dealing with ripples from COVID-19 or some other reason entirely, refineries aren’t pumping out as much.

This then becomes a problem for anything that needs gas to run.

There’s a lot of demand for gas.

In particular, there’s been a surge of activity in the shipping industry.

Ships and trucks need gasoline as well.

With more people shopping online, it means there are more trucks and ships needed to deliver those orders.

As a result, you have a market where there’s a lot of demand and not a lot of supply.

The price increases.

Airlines then have to pay higher prices to fuel their planes.

To cover those costs, they set expensive prices on their tickets.

Flights are expensive because of the price of fuel.

 

2. Limited Competition

Aircraft fleet parked at taxiway of Hong Kong International airport

 

Another reason flights are expensive is that there isn’t a lot of competition among airlines in certain parts of the United States.

Each airline has a specific number of routes that they own.

One might focus on flights to large cities.

Another might only do flights in the western part of the United States.

Typically, each airline has its niche.

The problem with this system is that it does away with the competition.

Now and then, you’ll have a few airlines that offer the same route.

This is particularly popular for large cities or cities that are stepping stones for international flights.

When it comes to smaller airports in less-populated areas, however, you usually only have one or two airlines that operate in that area.

Since there aren’t that many airlines competing for their customers, the airline can basically set whatever prices it wants.

It knows that people are going to pay since they don’t have any other option.

In a market where competition exists, airlines compete with each other to attract fliers.

One of the best ways to compete in a market is to offer lower prices.

As such, all competing airlines will cut their prices to become more enticing.

In a market without competition, airlines don’t have a reason to cut their prices.

It doesn’t have to do anything to entice fliers to use its services because there aren’t other options from which to choose.

That’s why you’ll find that some flights to more remote areas or even to regional airports tend to be more expensive than flights to busy or international airports.

Flights are expensive when there isn’t a lot of competition among the airlines.

 

3. Emergencies

Two excited tourists hurrying to catch the flight

 

Emergency flights can also be very expensive.

If you receive news that a beloved family member who lives far away is on their death bed, for example, then you’re going to be desperate for a flight.

You don’t have the luxury of booking a few months ahead.

Instead, you need to get on a plane as soon as possible.

The problem with this situation is that most seats are likely taken already.

The few that are still available are going to be very expensive.

There’s a general pattern that’s common when it comes to buying airline tickets.

The earlier you book a flight, the less expensive it is.

Now and then, you can gamble and wait to score a discounted seat, but it doesn’t always work out.

In the case of an emergency, you don’t have the luxury of waiting.

You need to fly immediately.

Airlines don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who are dealing with an emergency.

They’ll try to encourage someone to give up their seat, but they don’t do much when it comes to budging on the price.

That’s because they know that you’re desperate to use their service.

They know that you’re going to be willing to pay anything as long as you get a seat on the next flight.

They’re adhering to the rules of supply and demand.

At that point, they have very little supply and your demand is very high.

They’re able to charge expensive prices for any remaining seats on the plane.

Flights are expensive when you’re faced with an emergency and need to buy a seat immediately.

 

4. High Demand

Travelers wait for check-in on September 1, 2009 at Katowice Airport, Poland

 

More people than ever are flying.

As planes have become safer and safer, more people are comfortable using them.

They’re also one of the most efficient and fastest ways of traveling.

While bullet trains and supersonic trains may one day take the throne for quick travel, at this stage, planes are still the winner.

As such, more people choose to fly to visit family or take vacations.

It makes sense since it saves so much time.

Consider that some road trips could take two days to complete, but a plane can get you there in two hours.

The savings you’ll enjoy on gas, food, and hotels alone make the plane ticket more appealing.

In addition, you can start your vacation early.

You’ll spend less time traveling to get there and more time enjoying the actual vacation spot.

Businessmen and women also use planes regularly.

Whether they’re flying across the country for a meeting or even across the world to discuss a partnership, flying just makes sense.

It saves time, and in business, time is money.

However, this means that there are more people using planes.

The demand is higher for seats on a plane.

Since planes only have so many seats, the more demand there is, the more expensive the tickets become.

Flights are expensive due to high demand.

 

5. Labor Costs

Confident pilot. Confident male pilot in uniform keeping arms crossed and smiling with airplane in the background

 

Like any other business, airlines have costs that they need to cover.

One of the biggest expenses is labor costs.

Flying a plane and keeping it maintained are two very important things that need to be done by specialized professionals.

The right pilot can keep their travelers calm during turbulence and when things aren’t going right.

The right airplane mechanic can spot a problem before a plane takes off.

Commercial pilots earn $99,640 a year on average.

Airline pilots, mechanics, and copilots earn around $202,180 a year.

Clearly, it pays to be a pilot or a plane mechanic.

The high salary makes sense since pilots and mechanics have to spend a lot of time studying and job shadowing before they’re even officially hired.

Pilots need to obtain a lot of flight time before they can apply for a job.

Airlines want to ensure their passengers are in safe hands.

Mechanics also need to know what they’re doing.

They need to be able to spot a problem before it becomes a bigger problem.

Airplanes use sophisticated engineering, too.

It takes a skilled mechanic to know what problems the plane might be having.

It’s a very focused type of skillset.

Airplanes are different from cars, for example.

Because of how important it is to ensure the plane is in good shape, airlines also pay their mechanics quite well.

Besides those expensive human resources, airlines also pay all sorts of other employees.

You have bag checkers, runway officials, tower officials, and receptionists.

Since their labor costs are so high, they need to cover them by making good money.

They earn that revenue by charging expensive prices for their tickets.

Flights are expensive because of airlines’ labor costs.

 

6. Time Of Year

Christmas tree in the airport and people at the check-in counters in the background,

 

The time of year in which you fly can also impact the price of the ticket.

The holiday season is easily one of the most expensive times to fly.

It’s expensive for a few reasons.

The first is that a lot of people are traveling to see family for the holidays.

It might mean children are flying home to see their parents.

It might mean parents are flying to see their children.

The holidays are all about spending time with friends and family.

If your family happens to live out of state, then flying often makes the most sense.

It saves time so you can enjoy more time with your family.

The other main reason is that the holidays are a time when a lot of people go on vacation.

Many people get or take time off from work during the holidays.

Children are also off from school.

As such, it’s a great time for families to take vacations.

They’re also going to want to fly since it’s the fastest and most convenient way to travel.

This results in high demand for a limited number of seats.

Airlines are able to charge more because they know a lot of people are going to be using their services.

Flights are expensive when you’re traveling during the holidays.

 

7. Limited Capacity

Interior of large passengers airplane with people on seats and stewardess in uniform walking the aisle.

 

While demand is certainly one reason for expensive prices on flights, a lack of supply is another reason.

Even if an airline has a ton of airplanes on its roster, those planes only have so many seats.

Each plane has a set number of seats available in it.

Once those seats are all gone, there’s no more room for anyone else.

As such, travelers are paying for a finite resource.

The more limited the resource becomes, the more expensive the remaining resource is.

Some airlines are experimenting with new designs that add even more seats to their planes.

However, the simple fact that every plane has a set number of seats in it means that as those seats get filled, the remaining seats are going to become more expensive.

Flights are expensive because there are only so many seats available.

 

8. First Class Luxuries

Emirates first class travel. Airbus A380. Exploring the world with Emirates. Luxury first class suite. Luxury travel. Business class travel.

 

Flights are also expensive when you choose to buy a first-class ticket.

Depending on the plane in question, you may have a few options for the type of ticket that you want to buy.

The cheapest option is often called an economy ticket.

One of the most expensive tickets is first class.

First-class tickets tend to come with several luxuries that those traveling in economy class don’t experience.

The seats are usually larger and a bit more comfortable, too.

First-class tickets also offer more food options.

Some airlines even provide wine and other types of alcohol.

Depending on the airline, you might be able to shower or enjoy some privacy.

Clearly, first class comes with more conveniences and comforts.

Flights are expensive when you buy a first-class ticket.

 

9. Extra Weight

Suitcases multicolor stacked for transport one above the other

 

Airlines also charge by weight.

If you have bags that exceed their weight limit, then you’ll have to pay a fee.

That’s because airlines have to be mindful of how much weight they’re carrying.

If the plane weighs too much, then it can interfere with its ability to fly.

If too many people bring overweight bags, then some people might need to wait for their bags to arrive on the next flight.

It’s too dangerous to overload a plane with weight.

It’s worth ensuring your bag doesn’t exceed the airline’s weight limits to keep your flight cheaper.

You’ll find that flights are expensive when your bags are too heavy.

 

10. Extra Bags

Young woman wearing casual clothes is posing at airport

 

Airlines also charge you extra if you bring more than the accepted number of bags for your ticket.

Certain airlines allow you to bring a set number of bags and suitcases per ticket.

Cheaper flights usually allow a bag or two at the max.

More expensive flights usually let you bring a few bags with you.

If you have a cheaper ticket and bring an extra bag, then you’ll get hit with a fee.

It can make your cheaper ticket more expensive.

Flights are expensive when you bring extra bags beyond what your ticket allows.

 

Conclusion

Flying is a popular form of travel since it saves time.

However, because of the costs associated with flying and the limited number of seats on planes, flights can be quite expensive.

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