A mea­ger victory for US fliers: sum­mer do­mes­tic fares decline by US$2.01

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY SCOTT MAYEROWITZ

Af­ter years of steadily-ris­ing air­fares, U.S. trav­el­ers this sum­mer can ex­pect a tiny bit of re­lief — US$2.01 (NT$62) in sav­ings to be ex­act.

The av­er­age roundtrip do­mes­tic ticket this sum­mer, in­clud­ing taxes, now stands at US$454 (NT$14,066), down less than a per­cent from last sum­mer. Va­ca­tion­ers to Europe will fare bet­ter with the av­er­age ticket down 3 per­cent to US$1,619, about US$50 less than last sum­mer. Not all trav­el­ers will get to save. Flights to Hawaii, Florida and New Or­leans are cheaper, but trav­el­ers head­ing to New York, Den­ver and San Fran­cisco can ex­pect to pay more.

Even in Europe, it de­pends on the des­ti­na­tion. Over­all fares are down but it will cost more this sum­mer to fly to cities like Am­s­ter­dam; Lon­don; Bu­dapest, Hun­gary; Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal; Frank­furt, Ger­many or Reyk­javik, Ice­land.

Prices are com­ing down be­cause air­lines are now sav­ing bil­lions of U.S. dol­lars thanks to lower fuel prices and be­cause more seats have been crammed into planes, spread­ing out costs over more pas­sen­gers. Euro­pean eco­nomic trou­bles are also keep­ing some seats empty as busi­ness trav­el­ers stay home.

The gen­er­ally good news about fares comes in a re­port re­leased Mon­day by the Air­lines Re­port­ing Corp., which pro­cesses ticket trans­ac­tions for air­lines and travel agen­cies such as Ex­pe­dia, Amer­i­can Ex­press and Carl­son Wagonlit. The study looks at 4.1 mil­lion tick­ets pur­chased be­fore March 31 this year and last year for travel be­tween Me­mo­rial Day and La­bor Day.

Air­fare dur­ing the first three months of this year was also lower, down 3.7 per­cent do­mes­ti­cally and 8.9 per­cent in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Even with the mod­er­ate re­lief this sum­mer, prices are still higher than just a few years ago. The av­er­age do­mes­tic roundtrip ticket is still US$13, or 3 per­cent, higher than it was in 2012. Euro­pean trips are US$60, or 3.9 per­cent, more ex­pen­sive.

Trav­el­ers can thank lower oil prices and more seats on planes for keep­ing this sum­mer’s air­fare in check.

Air­lines at the start of the year paid US$2.13 for each gal­lon of jet fuel, down 30 per­cent from last year’s US$3.03, ac­cord­ing to the Bureau of Trans­porta­tion Statis­tics. With U.S. air­lines burning through 42 mil­lion gal­lons of fuel a day, that 90-U.S.-cent sav­ings adds up quickly: US$14.7 bil­lion for the en­tire year if prices re­main at th­ese lev­els.

Trav­el­ers are only see­ing a sliver of those sav­ings. The rest of the money is be­ing used to up­grade air­planes and air­ports, pay em­ployee bonuses and re­ward share­hold­ers as air­lines con­tinue to post record prof­its.

Euro­pean eco­nomic woes are also keep­ing some busi­ness trav­el­ers home, help­ing lower fares for va­ca­tion­ers. Fares are down to air­ports in Spain, Italy and France. How­ever, cities in Ger­many and Eng­land, whose economies are stronger, are still higher this sum­mer com­pared to last year.

Part of the sav­ings is also linked to air­lines adding ex­tra seats on cer­tain routes.

One of the best bar­gains to Europe right now is be­tween New York and Mi­lan, Italy. That’s be­cause four air­lines fly that tra­di­tional busi­ness route non­stop each day in­clud­ing Dubai-based Emi­rates Air­line. Start­ing in June, Emi­rates will fly the world’s largest jet, the Air­bus A380, car­ry­ing 489 peo­ple be­tween the two cities. That’s 129 more pas­sen­gers a day than it cur­rently car­ries, help­ing to bring down prices.

The same sit­u­a­tion Hawaii.

There are 5 per­cent more seats be­tween Hawaii and the rest of the coun­try this sum­mer, com­pared to last. That’s help­ing to lower ticket prices to most air­ports there by about 10 per­cent.

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