With fuel prices at historic lows and profits at historic highs, the airlines have come under increasing pressure from the public, regulators, and the media to lower their airfares. Albeit belatedly, it appears they’ve begun doing just that.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which this week released its latest report, for the third quarter of 2015, average domestic ticket prices were down 6.2 percent year-over-year, to $372. Adjusted for inflation, that’s the lowest average fare since 2010.
The fare changes varied considerably among airports, reflecting local competition and demand, with decreases ranging from modest to massive. Ticket prices at Chicago O’Hare airport, for example, were down a hefty 19 percent, while they decreased only 2 percent at New York’s JFK airport.
Fare changes at a sampling of other large U.S. airports:
- Dallas-Ft. Worth – down 15 percent
- Miami – down 14 percent
- Atlanta – down 13 percent
- Los Angeles – down 8 percent
- Dallas Love Field – down 8 percent
- Denver – down 4 percent
- Seattle – down 4 percent
- San Francisco – down 3 percent
Other highlights of the Bureau’s report:
- During the third quarter of 2015, only 75 percent of the airlines’ passenger revenue came from basic airfares. Most of the other 25 percent was generated from what the airlines call ancillary revenues, and what air travelers call nuisance fees.
- With fares averaging $339, the pricing sweet spot was at the medium-sized airports, with 4 – 5 million originating passengers during the period. Airfares averaged $380 at larger airports, with more than 5 million passengers, and $376 at airports with fewer than 1 million originating passengers.
- “Since 1995, inflation-adjusted fares declined 16.8 percent compared to a 55.3 percent increase in overall consumer prices.”
BTS will release its report for the fourth quarter of 2015 on April 26. Travel consumers will be waiting and watching. And hoping the trend continues.
Reader Reality Check
Airfares are down, yes. But are they a bargain?
After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim Winship is Editor-at-Large.