Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
That's according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which released its fourth quarter data today. In the fourth quarter, average domestic airfares rose to $368, up 10 percent from a similar period in 2010. Cincinnati had the highest average fare, while Atlantic City, NJ had the lowest.
In inflation-adjusted dollars, the BTS says, this is not the most expensive year ever. 2000 was, with inflation-adjusted fares in 1995 dollars of $300, compared to 2011's $247.
Here's the full BTS press release, with lots of links:
BTS Releases 4th-Quarter 2011 Air Fare Data;
4th-Quarter Domestic Air Fares Rose 10% from 4th Quarter 2010 Top 100 Airports: Highest Fares at Cincinnati, Lowest Fares at Atlantic City
Domestic Air FaresAverage domestic air fares rose to $368 in the fourth quarter of 2011, up 10 percent from the average fare of $335 in the fourth quarter of 2010 (Table 1), the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today. Cincinnati had the highest average fare, $502, while Atlantic City, NJ, had the lowest, $189 (Table 3).
Fourth-quarter fares increased 2.1 percent from the third quarter (Table 2). Quarter-to-quarter changes may be affected by seasonal factors.
BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reports average fares based on domestic itinerary fares. Itinerary fares consist of round-trip fares unless the customer does not purchase a return trip. In that case, the one-way fare is included. Fares are based on the total ticket value which consists of the price charged by the airlines plus any additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include other fees, such as baggage fees, paid at the airport or onboard the aircraft. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares” or a few abnormally high reported fares.
When not adjusted for inflation, the $368 fourth-quarter 2011 average fares were up 6.6 percent from the previous fourth-quarter high of $345 in 2008. Unadjusted fourth-quarter fares dropped to $320 in 2009 during the recession. Fourth-quarter 2011 fares were up 15.2 percent from 2009, not adjusted for inflation. They were also up 23.9 percent from the post 9/11 low of $297 in 2004 (Table 6).
Fourth-quarter 2011 fares, not adjusted for inflation, were the second highest of any quarter, exceeded only by the high of $370 in the second quarter of 2011. Adjusted for inflation, fourth-quarter 2011 fares in 1995 dollars were $251, down 16.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2000, which, at $300, was the inflation-adjusted high for any fourth quarter since 1995 (Table 1). BTS air fare records begin in 1995. See BTS Air Fare web page for historic data.
Average fares for the full year in 2011 were the highest on record at $364, up 8.3 percent from 2010. The 2011 fares were up 5.2 percent from 2008, which at $346 was previously the highest year on record since 1995, not adjusted for inflation. Adjusting for inflation in 1995 dollars, fares in 2011 averaged $247, up 4.9 percent from 2010 but down 17.6 percent from the inflation-adjusted high of $300 in 2000. See Annual Fares .
Passenger airlines collected 71.4 percent of their total revenue from passenger fares during the third quarter of 2011, the most recent quarter available (Table 1A).
Air fares in the fourth quarter of 2011 increased 8.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2000, not adjusted for inflation, compared to an overall increase in consumer prices of 29.7 percent during that period. In the 16 years from 1995, the first year of BTS air fare records, air fares rose 28 percent compared to a 47 percent inflation rate (Table 6). The average inflation-adjusted fourth-quarter 2011 fare in 1995 dollars was $251 compared to $288 in 1995 and $300 in 2000 (Table 1).
See Tables 3-5 for data about the top 100 airports based on 2010 originating passengers.
Table 3: Five highest and five lowest average fares in the fourth quarter: Cincinnati, a market with a high representation of business travelers, had the highest average fare, $502, while Atlantic City, a leisure-dominated market, had the lowest, $189. For the Top 100 Airports, see Table 8 on the BTS website.
Table 4: Five largest increases and five largest decreases from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the fourth quarter of 2011: Fort Myers, FL, had the largest increase, 26.4 percent, and Charleston, SC, had the largest decrease, 8.3 percent. For the Top 100 Airports, see Table 9 on the BTS website.
Table 5: Five largest increases and five largest decreases from the fourth quarter of 2000 to the fourth quarter of 2011: Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena, CA, had the largest increase, 59.1 percent, and White Plains, NY, had the largest decrease, 34.9 percent. For the Top 100 Airports, see Table 10 on the BTS website.
For additional data, see Top 100 Airports , Rankings or All Airports . Since average fares are based on the Origin and Destination Survey 10 percent ticket sample, averages for airports with smaller samples may be less reliable. Fares for Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico airports are not included in rankings but are available on the web page. First-quarter 2012 average fare data will be released on July 26.
Table 1: 4th Quarter Average Fares 1995-2011 Compared to Inflation Rate
Fares based on domestic itinerary fares. Itinerary fares consist of round-trip fares unless the customer does not purchase a return trip. In that case, the one-way fare is included. Fares are based on the total ticket value which consists of the price charged by the airlines plus any additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include other fees, such as baggage fees, paid at the airport or onboard the aircraft. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares” or a few abnormally high reported fares.
|Average Domestic 4Q Fares ($)||Percent change from previous year||Percent change from 1995|
|Average Fares (4Q to 4Q)||Inflation (Dec from previous Dec)*||Cumulative Average Fares (4Q 1995 to 4Q of each year)||Cumulative inflation rate (Dec of each year from Dec 1995)*||Average Fare in 1995 dollars|