12 Travel Predictions for 2024

Scott Keyes

Scott Keyes

January 5, 2024

5 min read

Table of Contents

I went 10 for 13 in last year’s predictions—not bad. If I can get that same 77% of 2024 correct, I’ll be pleased.

Below are my 12 predictions for 2024—9 pieces of good news for travelers and 3 pieces of bad news—along with my level of confidence and a brief explanation. In 12 months we’ll see how these panned out.

1. Average airfare won’t rise or fall more than 5%. (70% confidence) 

In 2022 airfare rose 36% (from pandemic lows, of course), then fell 12% in 2023. I’m expecting the double-digit swings in flight prices are now over. This year, with airfare back to pre-pandemic levels, I’m expecting average airfare at the end of 2024 will be +/- 5% from where it ended in 2023.

2. A new record for air travel numbers. (70% confidence) 

Last year we set a new record for air travelers in the US—846.2 million enplanements. But that record will be short-lived, and 2024 will be even higher.

3. Flight cancellations under 2% for the year. (60% confidence) 

After an awful 2022 (2.8% of flights canceled) and a 43% improvement in 2023 (1.6% of flights canceled), 2024 will be another decent one. That’s thanks to an easing pilot shortage, airlines with more planes, and a return to relative normalcy for the travel industry after a topsy-turvy few years.

4. There will be between 5 and 10 Mistake Fares departing US airports. (60% confidence) 

Much to my dismay, the number of Mistake Fares has been inching lower since the halcyon days of 2015-2019. This year I’m expecting somewhere between 5 and 10 from US airports (most will be on foreign airlines, which have worse IT to catch Mistake Fares before they hit the wild).

5. No US airlines will reinstitute change fees. (90% confidence) 

Change fees (for non-basic economy tickets) were famously scrapped in the fall of 2020 to entice travelers back into the sky. Almost immediately there was speculation that airlines would reimpose change fees once travel re-normalized. Fortunately, they’re wrong. I don’t think any US airline will bring back change fees for main economy tickets in 2024.

6. Maui will rebound to pre-disaster tourism numbers. (60% confidence) 

Tourism to Maui is currently down 30% year-over-year following the devastating fires in August 2023. At some point this year, I’m expecting Maui’s monthly tourism figures will fully rebound to pre-fire volume.

7. More cheap flights to Mexico. (60% confidence) 

In 2023 we found 309 cheap flights to Mexico for Going members. But with Mexican airlines allowed again to add new routes by US regulators, a revived airline Mexicana, and a brand new airport in Tulum opening a few months ago, expect even more than 309 cheap flights to Mexico in 2024. 

8. No new US airline mergers will be announced this year. (80% confidence) 

After two years in a row with major US airline merger announcements—JetBlue-Spirit in 2022 and Alaska-Hawaiian in 2023—the industry will take a break this year. Competition between airlines is the single biggest driver of cheap flights, so cheap flight lovers can breathe some relief.

9. A budget airline will have the lowest rate of lost bags. (80% confidence) 

If I were to ask 10 people on the street which airlines have the lowest rate of lost bags, few would say a budget airline like Allegiant or Spirit or Frontier. But given that most lost bags get lost on a layover, and given that budget airlines are more likely to fly nonstop, I’m guessing a budget airline will take home the Best At Bags honor in 2024.

10. The Justice Department won’t block the Alaska-Hawaiian merger.  (70% confidence) 

I’d correctly predicted last year that the government would block the JetBlue-Spirit merger. But this one’s different. While airline mergers are bad for cheap flight lovers, this merger won’t have nearly as dramatic an impact on fares as Spirit’s would. (Hawaiian has a smaller network than Spirit and is rarely the cheapest option; Spirit is almost always the cheapest and pushes down fares on full-service competitors.) I don’t like the merger, but I suspect it will get a green light from regulators.

11. Multiple US airlines will increase bag fees. (70% confidence) 

Checked bag fees on full-service airlines began in 2008 at $15. Today, most US airlines charge $30 for the first checked bag on domestic flights. Unfortunately, expect at least two carriers to increase that price to $35 this year.

12. A major US airline will devalue their frequent flyer miles. (60% confidence) 

After Delta’s infamous mileage devaluation of 2023, I think another big US airline will unfortunately follow suit this year. My best guess is American, but multiple candidates are at play here. 

Plan your 2024 travels

Scott Keyes

Scott Keyes

Founder & Chief Flight Expert

Scott has traveled to 46 countries (and 46 states!), living in California, to Oaxaca, to Oregon. He’s left-handed, drinks five cups of tea daily, and holds a vendetta against the “Happy Birthday” song. On a dare, he once ate 13 hot dogs (and a bowl of Dippin’ Dots) at the ballpark. He grew up in Ohio and founded Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) in a Denver coffee shop. Favorite airport: PDX.

Published January 5, 2024

Last updated January 9, 2024

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