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Airlines Face Aircraft Shortages Before Summer Travel

Brett Holzhauer's image
Brett Holzhauer
Brett Holzhauer's image

Brett Holzhauer

Content Contributor

19 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 22U.S. States Visited: 29

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he's had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards.
Edited by: Juan Ruiz
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Juan Ruiz

Senior Editor & Content Contributor

104 Published Articles 702 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 41U.S. States Visited: 28

Juan has extensive experience in writing and editing content related to credit cards, loyalty programs, and travel. He has been honing his expertise in this field for over a decade. His work has been ...

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The airline industry has a unique problem heading into the peak summer travel season: not enough planes to accommodate so many flyers. Given the law of supply and demand, this could potentially send airline ticket prices soaring this summer.

The last 12 months have seen the average airline ticket price drop by nearly 7%, but a wave of production issues from plane manufacturers has left commercial carriers scrambling to find planes. Airlines are now asking their crews to take voluntary leaves as they don’t have enough work to offer them.

All of this is taking place at a time when Americans are eager to travel. More passports are in circulation than ever before, and TSA continues to set records for daily intake of passengers regularly — up 6% over 2023’s numbers through April 14, 2024.

Here’s what you need to know about the plane shortage and how it could potentially affect your upcoming summer travel plans.

Challenges Arise in Airplane Production Amid High Demand

Part of the business model for airlines is to cycle through planes regularly. Just like a car, planes must be taken out of service for regular maintenance. The major carriers rely on airplane manufacturers to continue their operations by building new planes. Unfortunately, the companies that supply airlines with their equipment have been less than reliable in recent memory.

Production at Boeing has been marred with safety concerns after a door blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5 and has significantly slowed production, according to reports. Since the incident, the historic aircraft manufacturer has had a year filled with scrutiny, regulatory issues, and scathing reports from whistleblowers about missed quality control in their aircraft.

What’s more, it’s not just Boeing that is causing headaches for the airlines. Spirit Airlines, among others, is facing issues with its Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan (GTF) engines, manufactured by International Aero Engines. The mechanical issues forced many of its planes to be grounded, taking even more inventory out of the sky for consumers. Spirit is being compensated for it, but it doesn’t help consumers left with even fewer options.

Here’s what current data is showing us for inventory, according to the Federal Reserve:

  • Available seat miles for domestic flights (Dec. 2023): 79.244 billion
    • Only up 3.5% since Feb. 2020
  • Available seat miles for international and domestic flights (July 2023): 117.336 billion
    • Only up 2% since July 2019
Bottom Line:

Travelers are eager, and airlines don’t have enough seats to fill them. According to a Nationwide survey, 91% say they will travel domestically in 2024, with 40% planning even more travel than the year prior. Additionally, half of those surveyed are traveling outside the U.S. as well.

What Consumers Can Do to Avoid Airline Issues

booking travel on laptop
Image Credit: sofiko14 via Adobe Stock

Southwest, United, and Ireland-based Ryanair have all stated they are cutting back their schedules for the remainder of the year. This means there will be fewer seats to purchase with potentially higher demand than the year prior.

This situation can leave consumers on the fence about booking flights. Whether you’re on a strict budget, or simply afraid of experiencing flight delays or cancellations, here are several things you can do to ease the potential anxiety caused by the looming aircraft shortage.

Book the Early Morning Flight

The proverb “early bird gets the worm” applies to the current plane shortage situation. Early morning flights are not only less expensive, but they are also less likely to be canceled or delayed.

Cancellations and delays frequently occur during the day. This means an early morning delay is usually shorter than one later in the day.

Going for the 5 a.m. flight can be the wise choice if you’re a morning person or just want to increase your chances of not experiencing a flight delay or cancellation.

Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance

If you make any sort of expensive purchase, like a home, vehicle, or jewelry, it’s suggested to have insurance on those big-ticket items. The same should be said for any vacation or travel plans you may have, as any mishap can potentially cause thousands of dollars in losses.

No matter how often you travel, you should have a card that offers travel insurance coverage and protection in case your travels are derailed. For example, if your flight is delayed 4 hours or more, you may be able to have your incurred expenses covered by trip delay insurance.

Before you book your next trip, find a travel credit card that fits your personal finance needs and has comprehensive travel insurance.

Use Points and Miles To Mitigate Fare Increases

We predict that flight prices will only increase as the summer travel season nears. Regardless, travel prices will likely remain elevated as inflation stays sticky. So, while getting the best value for your travel rewards is important, I would argue that saving your cash is even more important.

if you’re planning a trip a few months away, look into what it would take to book the same flight or hotel stay using rewards you earn from a welcome bonus.

Hot Tip:

If you’re new to the world of points and miles and want to explore the world of earning valuable travel rewards, take a look at our Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Points and Miles!

Final Thoughts

The airline industry continues to face significant challenges as it strives to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Now, consumers should be prepared to adapt in order to ensure their travels go smoothly and avoid overpaying, which could strain their budgets.

Brett Holzhauer's image

About Brett Holzhauer

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he’s had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards. He learned the tricks of the trade from his mom, and has taken many steps forward. He wasn’t exposed to much travel as a kid, but now has a goal of reaching 100 countries in his life. In 2019, he sold all of his possessions to become a digital nomad, and he says it was one of the best decisions he ever made. He plans to do it again at some point in his life.


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