International flights are more expensive than domestic ones because they cost more to operate.

An international flight needs more fuel, is subject to higher government taxes, and costs more to manage. Demand for international flights is also currently high because of COVID-19 restrictions being eased.

Naturally, airlines want to maximize revenue, so they increase international travel tickets when demand for them increases.

Another major contributor to high international travel prices in 2022 is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which increased global oil prices and forced airlines to avoid Russian airspace.

As a result, many airlines pay more for aviation fuel and take longer routes to avoid Russian airspace. 

5 Reasons International Flights Are So Expensive

International flights are more expensive due to the following reasons.  

  1. Larger airports charge airlines more: Large international airports charge airlines more to operate than smaller, local ones. So, airlines increase ticket prices. 
  2. Fuel Costs: International flights are usually longer than domestic ones, so the plane has higher fuel costs.
  3. Demand: There can be a higher demand for international flights than domestic ones – not necessarily in the U.S., but on a global basis.
  4. Stopovers: Many international flights have stopovers, which means that airlines pay multiple airports for a flight. 
  5. Government Taxes: Governments impose air passenger duty on domestic and international flights.
    While the percentage is the same for both domestic and international flights, the gross amount is higher for international flights, since international flights already cost more due to other reasons. 

Why International Flights Are So Expensive Right now

International flights are currently (2022) expensive right now for the following reasons.

1. Higher Demand Leads to Fewer Cheap Flights

Airplane tickets are priced the same way as any other commodities, with prices increasing when demand goes up.

So, high demand for international travel following the COVID-19 pandemic has increased ticket prices.

Demand for international travel is especially high right now because COVID-19 restrictions were internationally eased.

Most people who postponed their travel plans during the pandemic are completing them now. 

2. Seasonality Affects Demand

Demand for international travel to different countries highly depends on the season.

Most countries have a tourist season during December or the summer period.

The higher demand for international travel during those times increases ticket prices. 

Different countries also have different tourist seasons, so there will virtually always be an expensive international destination.

For example, Australia’s tourist season starts in December, while Japan’s starts in the spring. 

3. Fuel Prices Affect Ticket Prices

Aviation fuel is currently rising in price due to the oil market recovering after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rising oil prices result in rising airplane ticket prices because aviation fuel is a major airline expense. 

The 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine further increased oil prices by disrupting supplies.

While airlines have strategies called hedging to manage high fuel prices, they’re still strongly impacted by them. 

4. Business Travelers

The number of business travelers on a flight impacts how much other people are charged.

Business travelers are less price sensitive than leisure travelers, so a larger number of business travelers on an international flight increases the ticket price. 

The airline’s goal is to maximize revenue, so they’d prefer to charge higher rates and have fewer passengers if it results in higher revenue.

Related: Premium Economy vs. Business Class (Differences & Similarities)

Avoiding Certain Airspace Makes Flying Expensive

Generally, a flight costs more the longer it takes to reach its destination.

So international flights cost more when the flight has to avoid the fastest route for political reasons.

The recent Russo-Ukrainian war, for instance, led to airlines avoiding Russian and Ukrainian airspace.

As an example, tickets for flights from London to New Delhi increased because they now use a slower alternate route. 

Multiple airlines also avoid North Korean airspace for political reasons, which increases the cost of flights from Japan and South Korea to Europe.

These slower alternate routes increase airline flight costs, so they increase ticket prices. 

When International Flight Prices Drop

International flight prices are expected to go down in the fall and winter, specifically from September and October until December.

International flight prices generally fall during this time because demand decreases. 

International flight prices may also fall if oil prices fall or if the Russo-Ukrainian war ends.

Flight prices are expected to then increase once again during the summer.

5 Ways to Fly For Cheaper

1. Have Flexible Travel Dates and Times

Fly during the off-season to your destination.

For example, you could go to Australia in the spring instead of their summer, when the tourist season starts.

You’ll have a cheaper flight to Australia during the spring because market demand for flights to Australia will be lower.

Related: How Far in Advance Can You Book a Flight?

2. Be Flexible With Your Destination

You could fly to cheaper locations and drive to your original destination.

For example, it would likely cost you less to fly to the Netherlands and drive to France instead of flying directly to France. 

You could also choose to depart and/or land at another airport, where airfares might be cheaper.

3. Fly on Local or Budget Airlines

Local and budget airlines offer passengers the best prices on travel.

You’ll lose comfort and may need to pay for services like onboard meals, but you’ll save money on your ticket. 

4. Lookout For Special Deals

Sign up for airline mailing lists and newsletters to get special promotions and last-minute deals.  

Typically, last minute flights aren’t cheaper, but in some cases they can be.

5. Use points and Miles

Using a rewards credit card or the same airlines every time you fly can let you accumulate points and miles. 

You can redeem your points and miles for free flights and other travel perks that will reduce travel costs. 

Book in Advance to Fly Internationally For Cheaper

The best time to book an international flight is between one and three months before your flight, depending on the destination.

For example, the best time to book a flight to Central America is two to three months before the flight, while the best time to book a flight for Asia and Europe is around three months before the flight date. 

In conclusion:

  • International flights are expensive because they cost more for airlines to provide.
  • There’s high demand for international price tickets following the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Airlines are incentivized to take advantage of this trend and maximize revenue by increasing prices.
  • Another reason for increasing ticket prices is the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, which caused global oil supply issues and forced airlines to avoid Russian airspace.
  • As a result, airlines pay more for oil and use more for flights to certain destinations.
  • Airlines shift the cost of increasing oil and operations onto customers by increasing ticket prices.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).