Frequent Flyer

Airfares Are Down, and They Should Be

Airlines boast that inflation-adjusted airfares have decreased. True, but how much less are travelers getting for those lower fares?

If it feels like you’re paying more to fly, you’re right.

Average domestic airfares are the highest they’ve been since 1995, when the DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics started monitoring them.

According to the Bureau’s latest report, which includes data through the 4th quarter of 2014, the average domestic fare during 2014 was $391, an increase of 2.5 percent over the previous all-time high, $382, recorded in 2013.

Air fares are rising, no doubt.

But when the fares are adjusted for inflation, the picture changes.

Accounting for inflation, the highest average annual fare, $467, was recorded in 2000. So compared to that adjusted high, last year’s average amounted to a savings of 16.2 percent.

Of course, airline ticket prices don’t necessarily correlate with value. In 2000, coach seating was roomier, and planes weren’t flying 80-plus percent full year-round. Free meals were the rule, rather than the exception. Frequent-flyer programs delivered better value. There were more major airlines competing for consumers’ business.

In other words, you’re paying less for what you get and getting less for what you pay. Which is just another way of saying you get what you pay for.

Reader Reality Check

Would you pay 16.2 percent more for comfort and service comparable to what the airlines delivered in 2000?

This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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