Cost of Flying Rising

Finding cheaptravel deals, such as cheap airplane tickets, discounttravel deals, and cheap vacation packages, isbecoming more challenging as airfares increase in price.

The average domestic roundtrip airfare, including tax, was$363 in 2013, up over $7 from the prior year. This 2 percent increase exceeded inflation, which ran at 1.5 percent.

Airline ticket prices are almost 12 percent higher thantheir low during the Great Recession in 2009, when adjusted for inflation.

Ticket prices have grown more expensive at the same timethat the airlines have taken a number of steps to better control their costs,including eliminating unprofitable routes, packing more passengers onto planes,and merging with one another, resulting in fliers having fewer options.

Last year 84 percent of airplane seats were filled withpaying passengers vs. 82 percent in 2009.

The increased ticket prices do not include the bevy ofextra fees passengers now face when checking bags, gaining access to seats withadditional legroom, or purchasing a blanket, meal, or pair of headphones. The average flier pays an additional $50roundtrip just to check a single bag.

Airline fees, first introduced in 2008 to offset lossesfrom rising fuel prices, now generate $3.4 billion annually for U.S. airlinesand have been critical in the airlines earning consistent annual profits overthe last four years.

Airlines earn another $2.7 billion annually in reservationchange fees. Many airlines are nowcharging up to $300 to revise a domestic airline ticket.

Today airlines pay a little more than $3 a gallon for jetfuel compared to $1.89 in 2009.

Airlines are able to successfully charge higher ticketprices and fees because there is less competition. A wave of consolation that began in 2008 hasleft four U.S. airlines (American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, SouthwestAirlines, and United Airlines) controlling over 80 percent of the domesticairline market.

Fliers will be faced with higher government taxes startingJuly 1st. Currently thegovernment security fee is $2.50 each way for a nonstop flight, capped at $5each way for travelers with connections. This summer the security fee will be $5.60 each way, regardless ofwhether there is a connection. Thishigher fee is expected to cost passengers an additional $1 billion annually.

Savvy travelers on the hunt for cheap airplane ticketswould be wise to look at major Internet travel companies, such as Cheapfaresand Expedia to search for the cheapest available airline ticket prices. Additionally, travelers who purchase travelpackages, including hotel rooms, can achieve substantial changes vs. those whomake separate reservations for such services.
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