Grabbing bargain tickets for a summer vacation may not be an easy feat this year. A number of factors could help to raise airline fares across the board and there's little that customers can do about it. The first big factor is the large-scale grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX following safety concerns. Hundreds of jets around the world have been taken out of service. In addition, the delivery of many new jets around the world has also been halted. That's bad news because spring deliveries of new 737s were scheduled to accommodate busy summer routes around the world.
Travelers will have to prepare for the reality that seats are going to be scarce this summer compared to last summer. Things could be particularly bad for passengers in the United States. American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest have all announced 737 cancellations into July and August. Those are the peak months for summer travel. The fact that Southwest is being forced to extend cancellations into August is a big problem for deal-seeking travelers. Southwest is one of the 737 MAX's biggest customers. The airline also tends to force other carriers to lower rates due to its own very low rates. That might not be in play this summer.
Competition for cheap airfare will be high this summer. A robust economic climate in the United States and good employment numbers mean that many Americans will be making summer travel plans this year. Seat scarcity comes just as the price of jet fuel continues to rise. In fact, fuel prices are about 20 percent higher than they were at this time in 2018. Rising fuel prices are very likely to prevent airfare rates from falling during the summer. Even European travelers are going to have a tougher-than-usual time finding cheap tickets this year. The collapse of WOW Air this spring means that competition in the European market will be reduced and fares will likely rise.