United CEO warns of price spikes leading into holiday travel



The CEO of United Airlines has warned flight prices are about to spike as the busy holiday travel season looms — and surging jet fuel prices are to blame.

Jet fuel prices are climbing to levels not seen before COVID-19 hit and those costs would likely have to be passed along to passengers, United’s Scott Kirby told CNBC on Wednesday.

“Higher jet fuel prices lead to higher ticket prices,” Kirby said. “Ultimately, we’ll pass that through.”

Kirby, who wouldn’t predict how much fares would increase, said higher demand for travel usually drives up jet fuel prices.

United is predicting fuel costs will rise to an average of $2.39 a gallon as the holiday travel season nears.

Jet fuel prices were at $2.32 a gallon this week, which is up more than 115 percent from a year ago, S&P Global Platts data shows.

The increases come as travel begins to increase again in the wake of last year’s COVID restrictions being lifted and increased vaccinations.

The number of people to pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints in the US on Wednesday was up nearly 60 percent compared to last year.

united plane
United is predicting fuel costs will rise to an average of $2.39 a gallon.
REUTERS/Louis Nastro/File Photo

Other airlines, including Delta and American, have not publicly said whether their ticket prices are expected to increase.

It comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new travel guidance ahead of the holidays, urging all unvaccinated Americans to stay home.

“CDC still recommends delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated,” said the agency, which is encouraging the wearing of masks in transit.

The guidance came as experts warned it could potentially be a chaotic holiday travel season.

United Airlines passengers check in for their flights
Travel is beginning to increase again in the wake of lifted COVID restrictions and increased vaccinations.

About 40 percent of Transportation Security Administration workers were unvaccinated ahead of the federal Nov. 22 deadline, potentially leading to staffing shortages on Thanksgiving.


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