Looking for ways to save money on trips to Walt Disney World during the upcoming off-season? We can’t help with the now overdue discounts on resorts, but we do have a trio of deals on Orlando airfare to share. Perhaps more importantly, welcome relief is on the way via falling flight costs in the coming months. (Updated August 25, 2022.)
Let’s start with the latter bit of good news. After a truly chaotic summer travel season with overflowing airports, daily delays, constant cancellations, and soaring airfare, things might be turning the corner and finally improving. In particular, travel experts are forecasting falling flight prices as summer ends and the shoulder season starts.
Some analysts are predicting that domestic round-trip ticket prices could drop below $300 on average in the coming months. According to data from travel booking platform Hopper, average domestic ticket prices could decrease by around $150 in September and October 2022. But it gets even better than that!
The average price of a domestic roundtrip flight right is forecast to fall to a low of $286 this month. That’s down 25% compared to the airfare peak in May of this year. Notably, it’s also down 3% as compared to the same month in 2019, the last “normal” year before, well, you know.
As you’re also undoubtedly aware, airfare has been expensive for the spring and summer travel seasons–far, far above 2019. The culprits for this are fairly well-known to readers here, mirroring those of Walt Disney World: pent-up demand, staffing shortages, inflation, and higher jet fuel prices (okay, that last one is not one of the usual suspects discussed here).
The two last two summer travel seasons have had artificially depressed demand for flights. The reasons are obvious for 2020, but then last summer got off to a slow start before being cut short due to the Delta variant. This year, traveler demand peaked earlier than in a normal summer. (That’s interesting–and unsurprising–because it tracks perfectly with wait time data from our Walt Disney World crowd reports.)
Also unsurprising is that airfare is less expensive for August through October. This is normal for the airline industry, with seasonality kicking in after school starts going back into session; demand tapers off following the peak summer vacation months. (Again, trends mirrored in Walt Disney World wait time data.) It’s simply more pronounced this year due to the abnormally elevated summer prices and impact of satiated pent-up demand.
Slower bookings over the fall shoulder season causes airlines to lower prices in an effort to incentivize travelers to book trips and fill unsold seats. Since they’re perishable commodities (meaning that if a flight departs with empty seats, that revenue goes unrealized), it behooves airlines to adjust prices and offer sales as necessary to fill flights to the greatest extent practicable.
It should go without saying, but these lower prices won’t last. Anyone who follows Walt Disney World wait times (or even simply…goes places) will know this. Fall is considered the “shoulder season” because it’s between two busy travel windows–summer and the holiday season. By mid to late October, travelers will begin booking and traveling again.
Consequently, airfare will gradually rise in October to $339, then $373 in November 2022. Domestic flights are forecast to average $368 per ticket in December, with daily prices peaking at close to $400 for last-minute dates around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
And of course, these are just averages. If you’re flying from MRY to MCO two days before Thanksgiving, don’t be surprised when the prices are “slightly” higher than the aforementioned airfares. Rates from regional airports are typically higher, as are weekends, longer flights, etc.
On the plus side, if you’re flying from Atlanta, Charlotte, or even Midwestern cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, etc., you very well might pay less for your flights to Walt Disney World. (This should be obvious, but there’s always someone in the comments who is shocked that their specific circumstances don’t perfectly comport with averages. For whatever reason, it’s never someone who’s happy that their prices are lower than the norm, either.)
One big driver of higher prices this holiday season as compared to 2019 will be jet fuel prices. Over the summer, per gallon prices were up 85% as compared to 2019 and 86% as compared to last year. Jet fuel prices typically account for between 15% and 30% of an airline’s operating expenses and are a significant contributing factor to the higher airfares. On a positive note, jet fuel prices appear to have peaked in early June, are down over 10% in the last month, and are forecast to continue decreasing this fall.
While airlines continue to contend with understaffing and recovering networks that have caused disruptions, delays, and cancellations, their capacity is starting to recover. It’ll likely remain below 2019 levels through mid-2023, but expected improvements coupled with reduced demand should help reduce the airport anarchy that many travelers encountered this summer.
With that, let’s turn to even more positives–and specific instances of cheaper airfare this fall off-season. Here’s a look at the advertised sales that select airlines are currently offering…
Fall 2022 Airfare Deals (UPDATED August 25, 2022)
You can still score a last-minute trip that won’t break the bank for September 6 through November 16, 2022 thanks to JetBlue’s Big Fall Sale, which is bookable through August 30, 2022.
During this sale, one-way JetBlue flights start as low as $39. This deal includes international flights, and it offers wide availability out of New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Denver, and many other cities. For our Disney-related purposes, it also offers for the Los Angeles area and Orlando, Florida. Flights to or from LAX start at $39, while MCO’s lowest available price is $59. You can book this discount directly via JetBlue here.
We’re actually intrigued by this, as it could give us an excuse to check out Orlando International Airport’s new C Terminal when it opens next month. JetBlue is the only domestic airline that will operate out of MCO’s Terminal C, which begins its phased opening on September 19, 2022. (JetBlue starts on September 27, 2022.) The other airlines will all be international carriers.
Terminal C has modern design and advanced technology at TSA like facial recognition, luggage identification, and more. It also has intriguing dining options, including Art Smith’s Sunshine Diner, Summer House (also coming to Disney Springs), and Wine Bar George. While those sound great, it’ll be tough for me to resist the tried and true Shake Shack!
Southwest Airlines has a new deal for the fall where you can get one-way tickets through their Wanna Get Away tier for as low as $59, and through their Wanna Get Away Plus tier for as low as $79.
These trips have to be booked by August 26th, 2022 in order to get this deal and they are nonrefundable (flight credits are offered if you cancel or change flights). Travel is valid from September 6, 2022 through February 15, 2023. Blockout dates apply, and pricing varies by date.
In doing spot-checking, we found a number of great deals for airports we use and common ones for travelers to Walt Disney World–but nothing that was $59. The best I could find was $74 out of the Midwest, which is still pretty good–especially considering the astronomical airfare prices this summer!
After Frontier’s proposed merger with Spirit didn’t come to fruition, the airline opted to instead have a sale. While it’s sad that the two won’t be able to combine their powers and form an unprecedentedly awful airline the likes of which the world has never seen, I’m sure they’ll each continue to find new and innovative ways of being terrible. I believe in you, Frontier!
The budget carrier is currently offering fares starting at $19 to its Discount Den members. To find the lowest fares, search by price on Frontier’s website. To take advantage of this deal, buy by 08/25/22 and fly by 10/4/22. Valid for non-stop domestic travel select days of week.
If you’re not a Discount Den member, you can expect to pay a little more for these flights. In our searches, standard fares were about $5 to $15 more expensive each way as part of Frontier’s fare sale. The lowest rates we found were for Charlotte, Memphis, and Hartford (all of which $19). However, even the prices from Chicago, Dallas, Milwaukee, and other cities are hard to beat.
There are a few things to keep in mind before booking this deal. First, these are Frontier’s base weekday rates on certain dates only–we saw some flights for $19 and others for over $200 on the same itinerary. Second, Frontier will nickel and dime you with fees and upcharges–there’s almost no way anyone is flying to Walt Disney World for under $50 on Frontier.
Finally, Frontier is a bad airline. If you’ve had good experiences with Frontier and are a diehard “Denny” (what I assume Discount Den members call themselves), that’s great. But it doesn’t change the fact that Frontier is an ultra-low cost carrier. It’s not that Frontier is unsafe, it’s that the service and overall experience doesn’t measure up to Delta–or even Southwest. In fairness, neither do the prices.
Although we are frugal, we are averse to ultra-low cost carriers. It’s not because we enjoy wasting money, but rather, because the experience is less comfortable and the service is worse. Equally important as of late, these carriers typically fly fewer routes, don’t have reciprocal relationships with other airlines, and are less responsive when issues arise since they compete on price and not customer service.
While pretty much every airline has had woes this year, our experiences with United, Delta, and Southwest have been all been positive. Those airlines all make good faith efforts at guest recovery, whereas Frontier’s attitude seems to be “the customer is a burden who should be thankful to arrive within 6-8 weeks of intended departure.”
Not to pick on Frontier exclusively–I also hate American and Air Canada, and not just because I have a bias against airlines named after places in North America. Also, I really want to love Frontier, I swear. It’s almost impossible for me to dislike airlines with cute critters as mascots, but my experiences with Frontier have been so awful that they’ve made the nearly impossible, possible. (You know how hard it is for me to hate the home of Grizwald the Bear, Courtney the Cougar, and Virginia the Wolf?! THOSE NAMES MAKE THE ANIMALS EVEN MORE IMPOSSIBLY ADORABLE.)
Above all else, flexibility is your friend when it comes to saving money on flights (or just about anything travel-related). Hopefully with the info and offers here, you can save money on one of the most expensive aspects of your Walt Disney World vacation. (On a related note, to reduce flight-related headaches, see What to Do If Your Flight is Cancelled or Delayed.)
Thoughts or expectations about airfare costs during the upcoming shoulder and holiday seasons? Do you have any additional tips & tricks for scoring deals on airfare to Walt Disney World? Do you have a favorite airline? Any specific airline you dislike? Thoughts on the different airfare search engines or booking sites? What about sites (like Airfarewatchdog) to follow for hot deals on flights? Any questions about what we covered? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share in the comments below!