Airfares continue to climb
By The Associated Press
Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
NEW YORK — The price to board an airliner in the United States has risen for the fourth straight year, making it increasingly expensive to fly almost anywhere.
The average domestic roundtrip ticket, including tax, reached $363.42 last year, up more than $7 from the prior year, according to an Associated Press analysis of travel data collected from millions of flights throughout the country.
The 2 percent increase outpaced inflation, which stood at 1.5 percent.
Airfares have risen nearly 12 percent since their low in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, when adjusted for inflation, the analysis showed.
Ticket prices have increased as airlines eliminated unprofitable routes, packed more passengers into planes and merged with one another, providing travelers with fewer options.
Today, 84 percent of seats are filled with paying passengers, up from 82 percent in 2009.
“Anyone traveling today will know that those flights are full,” said Chuck Thackston, managing director of data and analytics for the Airlines Reporting Corp, which processes ticket transactions for airlines and more than 9,400 travel agencies, including websites such as Expedia and Orbitz. “Just through supply and demand, those fares will go up.”
And none of this factors in the bevy of extra fees travelers now face for checking bags, getting extra legroom or even purchasing a blanket, meal or pair of headphones. The typical traveler pays an additional $50 roundtrip to check a single suitcase.
Those fees, introduced in 2008 to offset losses from rising fuel prices, bring in $3.4 billion a year for U.S. airlines and have helped them return consistent annual profits for the last four years.
Airlines pay just over $3 a gallon for jet fuel, up from $1.89 in 2009. Another $2.7 billion a year is collected in reservation-change fees, with airlines charging up to $200 to revise an itinerary.
“I love to travel, but they're making it more difficult,” said Brian Kalish, a frequent flier from Arlington, Va. “Maybe I've been spoiled that it used to be so cheap to fly. It just feels like they are charging more and giving less.”
The AP reviewed data from 6 million flights taken in the United States, analyzing fees and government on-time records along with fare data from the Airlines Reporting Corp.
Jean Medina, spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the airlines' trade and lobbying group, said over the long-term fares have not climbed as fast as inflation and that flying “remains a great bargain.”
“Carriers continue to invest in their products with new planes, new services and new destinations,” Medina said. “It's a great time to fly.”
Airlines are able to push fare and fee hikes because there is less competition.
“You get some pricing power as a result,” said airline consultant Robert Mann.
Starting July 1, fliers will face higher taxes. The government's security fee is $2.50 each way for a nonstop flight, capped at $5 each way if a traveler has a connection. This summer, that fee will be $5.60 each way whether or not there's a connection.
The fee increase is estimated to cost travelers an extra $1 billion a year.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NBA player plans Russia’s 1st Hooters
- Emboldened by Italy move, QVC to expand into France
- Wages have soared in Pittsburgh, but economy appears to have stalled
- Earnings carry more weight as investors attempt to look past winter
- PPG shareholders vote against proposals; sales, profit see double-digit increases
- GlaxoSmithKline discloses bribery inquiries
- Czech Republic cancels nuclear reactor project with Westinghouse
- Consol Energy transitions as leadership changes hands
- Higher fuel costs help established airlines, hinder startups
- Fed Beige Book survey: Growth picks up across most of U.S. but not in Pittsburgh region