US says average airfares rising slowly; $381 in 4Q

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 23, 2014 at 9:41 am •  Published: April 23, 2014
Advertisement
;

DALLAS (AP) — The average price of an airline ticket for travel within the U.S. rose by just $1 last year, although prices are still modestly higher than they were five years ago.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday that the average domestic airfare rose to $381 in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 0.3 percent increase from a year earlier.

The government said that the highest average fares were in Huntsville, Ala., at $528, and the lowest were $249 in Long Beach, Calif.

The figures, which are adjusted for inflation, mostly count round-trip fares, but about one-fourth are one-way trips if that's what the passenger bought. Taxes are included, but fees for checking bags, boarding early or getting an economy-cabin seat with more legroom are not.

In the 12 months that ended last Sept. 30, the latest figures available, more than a dozen of the largest U.S. airlines raised more than $6.1 billion from fees on checked bags and reservation changes, according to government figures.

That's made airlines less dependent on raising ticket prices to boost profits. Airlines got 71.5 percent of their revenue from fares in 2013, down from 87.6 percent in 1990.

"The base fare may not be much higher, but because of the add-ons, it feels worse," said Rick Seaney, CEO of travel site FareCompare.com.

Seaney added that airlines are also pushing up fares for nonstop trips — in some cases charging 30 percent to 50 percent more for the convenience of avoiding connecting flights.

The airlines are able to do all this because they are successfully limiting the supply of seats. After four major mergers since 2008, the four biggest airlines now control more than 80 percent of the U.S. air-travel market.

Most planes are likely to be full this summer during peak vacation season. That means when flights are canceled because of thunderstorms at big, hub airports in Dallas, Chicago and elsewhere, it could be days before stranded passengers find a seat on another flight.