This Is the State of Cheap Flights in 2020

Americans are traveling and spending more, but also willing to put up with Basic Economy

January 28, 2020 11:40 am
We're spending less than ever on international flights, according to a new report
Yassine Khalfalli / Unsplash

Scott Keyes, founder of the popular cheap flights alert email list dubbed (natch) Scott’s Cheap Flights, which reaches over two million members (the site claims they save members an average of $550 per ticket), has come to a conclusion.

“We’re all living in the Golden Age of cheap flights.”

The site just released its inaugural State of Cheap Flights report, a survey of over 2000 members (mixed with their own data) on “how consumers are traveling now and how things may change in the coming year.” The report focuses on international travel from the U.S., as the site has deemphasized domestic flights and travel for people who live overseas. 

From the looks of it, we’re traveling a lot more … and even making a few sacrifices to do so (like embracing, ugh, Basic Economy).

So while we’re giving up some perks, we’re certainly seeing more of the world. And for good reason — it’s not very expensive to fly.

In our new Golden Age of travel, we’ve sacrificed comfort (and in-flight smoking) for cost (Photo: Scott’s Cheap Flights)

“It’s never been cheaper to travel overseas as it is today,” notes Keyes, who notes that a flight from New York to Rome in 1948 would have cost $9000 in today’s dollars, but the same deal could be had for around $300 roundtrip.

The main travel takeaways for 2020:

We’re traveling more (in many ways)

50 percent of Scott’s respondents said they plan to make more trips this year than last — and for the majority of those travelers, that means 2-3 international journeys. Most of these trips are a planned 7-10 days, and a large majority (81 percent combined) said their vacations would be either the same or longer than last year.

We’re spending more on travel

Only 14 percent of respondents said they’d spend less on travel this year than last. Still, for most people (64 percent), that amount is a modest $5,000 … and 53 percent of people say money keeps them from traveling more, far more than work or family commitments.

The environment is on our minds, not so much in our plans

While nearly half of the respondents were concerned about flying’s effects on the environment, our actions are modest. 54 percent said they’d still be taking the same number of long-haul flights but “trying to reduce carbon footprints in other ways,” while 22 percent aren’t changing their travel methods at all. 

We really like Europe

That’s where 80 percent of the respondents would choose as a destination, far ahead of Asia and Australia.

When choosing a destination, it’s all about price

64 percent of respondents choose a destination because of flight price. That’s more than personal recommendations (52 percent) and thankfully way ahead of “I saw a photo of the place on Instagram” (22 percent) and “a celebrity visited the place” (1 percent).

The survey features several more categories, but two things really stood out:  78 percent of respondents said they planned to use all of their vacation days this year (as they should), but 80 percent of people said if basic economy was the lowest price, they’d book it. 

As the site notes, “People are willing to spend money on travel; they just don’t want to spend it on flights.”

So we don’t care so much how we get somewhere — we’re just looking forward to everything after the arrival.

For more cheap travel tips from Keyes, check out his recent 14-hour AMA session on Reddit, where he drops a few choice nuggets (e.g. While horrible domestically, traveling internationally around Thanksgiving is very inexpensive!)


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