Airfares continue to rise, up 12 percent since '09

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 16, 2014 at 4:34 pm •  Published: January 16, 2014
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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.

A wave of consolidation that started in 2008 has left four U.S. airlines — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines — controlling more than 80 percent of the domestic air-travel market. Discount airlines such as Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines have grown at breakneck speed but still carry a tiny fraction of overall passengers.

"Even with the presence of a number of strong, sizable low-fare airlines, you are still seeing airfares go up sizably," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst with Hudson Crossing.

Starting July 1, fliers will also face higher taxes. The government's security fee is currently $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 hike is estimated to cost travelers an extra $1 billion a year.

Higher fares did not mean better service for passengers last year.

During the first 11 months of last year, 19 percent of flights failed to arrive within 15 minutes of their scheduled time. That's up from 16 percent during the same period in 2012, according to data kept by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The number of flights canceled in those 11 months also jumped nearly 15 percent to 81,265. The government has yet to release data for December, but the numbers won't be pretty. A series of snow and ice storms led to thousands of additional delays and cancellations.

"If we're paying more," Kalish said, "we should get more in return."

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Scott Mayerowitz can be reached at http://twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott