Airfares are up 10.2 percent from 2009, when the U.S. was digging out from the worst of the Great Recession. But they are down 16.3 percent since 2000 — the peak year for airfares — while overall consumer prices have risen 33.9 percent, the government said.
"It's a great time to fly," said Jean Medina, spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an industry trade group. "Air travel is one of the best consumer bargains in America, given its superior speed and price versus other modes of travel."
It's also a great time for the airlines.
Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. are expected to report this week that they earned a combined profit of more than $700 million in the first three months of 2014. That's usually the slowest time of year for travel, and it was considered remarkable when those airlines earned $200 million in the first quarter of last year.
Among the big four, only United Airlines parent United Continental Holdings Inc. is expected to report another large loss.
George Hobica, founder of the travel-shopping site airfarewatchdog.com, sees a connection between glowing financial reports and the slower pace of airfare increases.
"The airlines are profitable, and they've reached the limits of what consumers can afford, so they've dialed back on fare increases," he said.
Contact David Koenig at http://www.twitter.com/airlinewriter