Sky-high airfares leading to travel truancy

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An empty Provo Airport on Sept. 20 will see many Utah County college students flying home for the holidays. Travel costs are expected to be especially high this coming holiday season. (Lauren Woolley)

Thanksgiving is a time for family, home-cooked turkey dinners, and for college students, a break from school.

With inflated gas prices and higher-than-normal post-Covid travel demand, it also means a big blow to college students’ bank accounts. 

The number of Thanksgiving holiday travelers has steadily increased since 2008, despite a temporary decline during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, 53.4 million people traveled during the holiday period, and numbers are set to increase again in 2022.

The number of domestic travellers in the U.S. has steadily increased since 2008. Airfare is expected to be especially high in the coming holiday season. (Statista)

Not only has the number of people traveling increased, but the price associated with such travel has increased as well.

Hopper, the most downloaded travel app in North America, released statistics on holiday travel price increases, indicating that airfares are currently 43% higher than in 2021. Fares are predicted to remain at current prices until mid-October, increasing once again in November as the holiday season encroaches. 

Average airfare during the Thanksgiving holiday period has increased by over $100 since 2021. Flying home for the holidays will be more costly this holiday season compared to previous years. (Statistics from Hopper) (Made in Canva by Lauren Woolley)

Travel prices are not the only thing causing students to make rushed decisions during the holiday period — tight holiday class schedules often influence students toward truancy in order to accommodate holiday travel plans.

In-class attendance is often a requirement for many college classes; missing class can negatively affect students’ grades. However, many cheap airfares coincide with BYU’s altered academic calendar during the Thanksgiving break. With no classes scheduled from Nov. 23 through the rest of the week, students often choose missing school to save money. For UVU students who have the whole week off, this is not even an issue to consider.

Alex Hart, from Gilbert, Arizona, is one BYU student who made the decision to skip school to make holiday travel plans affordable.

“Whenever I try to find cheap flights, especially around holidays, I always have to fly on weekdays,” Hart said. “Because of the price of everything, I’m flying back the week after and it has to be during the week so it’s cheaper, but then I’ll miss school because of the BYU holidays.”

When asked about her thoughts on missing school after the official break, Hart said, “It kind of stresses me out because I know that after a week-long break teachers are going to want to get right back into it.”

BYU’s Thanksgiving break allows for one travel day before the national holiday. For students who opt to drive in order to save some money, this often presents other issues.

“The problem is a lot of people try to drive because flights are so expensive, and then it’s always snowing,” Hart said. “So there’s a major amount of accidents with people trying to rush home because our break starts on Wednesday, and break is on Thursday. They can’t wait for the snow to pass.”

In the past few years, students between California and Utah have been hit with severe snowy weather along the I-15 during the Thanksgiving break.

When asked what changes she would like to see regarding the holiday break, Hart said she would like BYU to give students more time before or after Thanksgiving to allow them to find cheaper weekday flights without stressing about school.

“You either have to choose school or money,” she said. “I can only spend two days with my family.”

For the portion of BYU’s student population from Arizona, Provo Airport serves as a gateway between the two states, offering flights through Allegiant Air and now Breeze Airways. Unless students make the decision to skip class a day or two early, flying out of Salt Lake City Airport may be a better option. 

Airfares vary significantly surrounding holidays period. For students traveling from Provo, SLC International Airport may provide a more time and cost-effective option. (Google Flights)

Students can book flights early to save money and avoid missing classes. If traveling by car, individuals can ensure vehicle maintenance is up to date, as a safety precaution for possible inclement weather.

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