As the summer travel season began this Memorial Day weekend, AAA reported a grim milestone as regular unleaded gasoline hit its highest recorded average price of $6.162 per gallon in California’s teeming Los Angeles County. The national average for unleaded gasoline also hit an all-time high of $4.619 per gallon.
CBS News reported, that despite the outrageous gas prices, “3.1 million Southern Californians were expected to hit the roads and skies over the extended Memorial Day Weekend.”
As the number of travelers rose, so did gas prices and cost of travel, as Los Angeles experienced it’s fifth-consecutive day of increasing gas prices, reaching a record $6.16 per gallon — up nearly two dollars from the previous Memorial Day record of $4.29 in 2012.
One gas station in Beverly Grove displayed an astounding $7.49 per gallon of regular unleaded gas. Another in Studio City showed a less-staggering, but still upsetting $7.09.
Meanwhile, across the country, AAA expected “more than 39 million people…to travel 50 miles or more from home” over the holiday weekend, which included over 35 million Americans traveling by car.
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The good news is that travel is up overall since the pandemic. According to AAA, “air travel continues to rebound, up 25% over 2021, and will make up 7.7% of all holiday weekend travelers, the highest share for air travel since 2011,” however, gas prices have not just impacted travel by car. Air travelers have seen ticket prices climb as the airlines compensate for the rising cost of fuel as well. Summer airline fares are averaging around $400 round trip, which is 24% higher than this time in 2019 before the pandemic, and 45% higher than a year ago, according to travel-data firm Hopper.
The bad news is that it wasn’t smooth flying. CBS News said many air travelers not only had to pay more but also saw their flights canceled or delayed over the weekend:
On Monday, 1,546 flights had been canceled as of 5:02 p.m. Eastern time, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. That followed roughly 1,640 cancellations on Sunday, 1,500 on Saturday and 2,300 on Friday. Nearly 400 of Monday’s cancellations involved aircraft scheduled to fly to or from U.S. cities.
With all these travel woes and prices, will the 2022 summer travel season continue to be robust? AAA seems to believe so even though “economic trends influencing the travel forecast include: Consumer sentiment [that] hit an 11-year low in March, driven by rising prices, the war in Ukraine and overall economic uncertainty. GDP should increase 2.9% compared to a year ago while the unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.6%. Despite falling consumer sentiment, [however] consumer spending is expected to surge in the second quarter, rising over 9%. However, rising prices will mean that real disposable income will fall 3.6% compared to a year ago.” In other words, Americans are spending again, but their money — like their travel plans — just won’t be going as far in 2022.