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JetBlue, Alaska Airlines trimming their flight schedules means 'fewer options and higher fares' for summer travelers

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JetBlue Airways plane seen at Cancun International Airport. On Wednesday, 23 March 2022, in Cancun International Airport, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Artur Widak | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Key Points
  • Alaska Airlines and JetBlue will reduce flights by 2% and 8%, respectively, this summer.
  • Both travel demand and fares are higher than they were in the summer of 2019.
  • This will have a direct impact on consumers who are booking summer travel, says Scott Keyes, founder of travel site Scott's Cheap Flights.

Alaska Airlines and JetBlue announced they will trim their flight schedules this summer due to a lack of workers.

Alaska Airlines will reduce its flight schedule by 2% through June due to a lack of pilots and staff, according to a news release. JetBlue will reduce flights by at least 8%, according to a staff email by Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue's COO and president, which was seen by CNBC. Even though the airline hired 2,500 people, it is still short-staffed.

"We've already reduced May capacity 8-10% and you can expect to see a similar size capacity pull for the remainder of the summer," Geraghty said in an email to staff on Saturday.

This will have a direct impact on consumers who are booking summer travel, says Scott Keyes, founder of travel site Scott's Cheap Flights. "It's going to mean fewer options and higher fares," he says.

International flight prices this summer are comparable to what they were in 2019, but domestic prices spiked, Haley Berg, the lead economist at Hopper, said in a statement: "Domestic airfare is trending 7% above 2019 prices at $330, round-trip."

Demand has also risen. Bookings from June to August of this year are already 8% higher than they were during the same time period in 2019, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

To get the best price, book early ...

Ideally, book your tickets three to six months in advance, Keyes says. That window is closing for summer travel, but even in the realm of last-minute bookings, it's better to buy tickets earlier rather than later.

"Not all last-minute flights are equally expensive," he says. "A flight booked one day before travel is going to be more expensive than a flight booked a month before travel."

So, book as soon as possible.

... and try to fly to larger airports

Airlines are more likely to cut routes to smaller airports, Keyes says.

"Think of a flight to Jackson Hole or elsewhere throughout Montana or the Mountain West," he says. "Those planes tend to be smaller and a smaller airplane tends to have fewer travelers. A smaller airplane isn't as favorable to the airline as something flying 150 people."

A smaller airplane isn't as favorable to the airline as something flying 150 people.
Scott Keyes
Founder of Scott's Cheap Flights

Larger airports will probably face fewer disruptions. "You're likely to see cheaper flights and have less likelihood of flights getting cancelled if you're flying to a larger airport," he says.

You'll still be able to get to smaller cities, he says, it just might take a bit longer or require an additional connection.

"Summer for airlines is Black Friday for retailers," Keyes says. "The fact that JetBlue and Alaska are trimming their summers schedules, summer being the most profitable season for airlines, really highlights what a bind airlines are in right now."

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