Airfares Remain Flat, Down 18 Percent From 1995

July 29--While consumers might like to complain about airfares, federal data released Tuesday show prices have barely budged during the past year and are down nearly 18 percent since 1995 when adjusted for inflation.

The average domestic roundtrip fare in the first quarter of the year was $381, including fees and taxes, down $3 from the year before when adjusted for inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

And since 1995, when the DOT began gathering comparable data, airfares have decreased 17.8 percent, when adjusted for inflation.

However, fares alone are not all air travelers pay nowadays, as airlines have implemented additional fees and ramped up ancillary offerings to boost revenue. For example, charging for checked bags has become almost standard, with Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways notable exceptions.

U.S. airlines collected 70.2 percent of their total revenue from passenger fares during the first quarter, down from 1990 when 87.6 percent of airline revenue was received from fares, according to the DOT.

Airfares vary dramatically by route and departure airport. For example, during the January-to-March period, Cincinnati had the highest average fare, $514, while Sanford, Florida, had the lowest, $119.

In Chicago, fares were higher out of Chicago O'Hare, where the average fare was $413, compared with $331 out of Chicago Midway, which is dominated by Southwest Airlines flights.

gkarp@tribune.com

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