Airline Deals Are Getting Rare
Less than five years ago, you could fly to Europe for $298 round trip off season, including taxes. And, in 1977, I flew the now defunct Peoples Express, one of the first post-deregulation discount carriers, for $99 each way from New York to Los Angeles: I paid a similar price just last year.
Until recently, sales were a staple of the airline world, and the flexible traveler could still be amply rewarded for spending time scouring various Web sites for a deal. Lately, however, even the most diligent shopper is having a difficult time finding a wow fare.
We all know about rising jet fuel prices, etc., but now the Air Transport Association, a trade organization for leading U.S. carriers, has released some stats that may bolster the airlines' case for not offering as many deals.
According to the ATA, first-quarter 2008 costs for U.S. passenger airlines grew at the fastest pace since the second quarter of 1980, up 31.3 percent since the first quarter of 2007 (compare that to the 4.2 percent increase in the U.S. Consumer Price Index). Fuel and labor saw the largest increases. And even though passenger yield (the number of seats filled) went up by 2.6 percent to 77.2 percent, airlines need to fill 83.5 percent of the their seats to break even.
Should we feel sorry for the airlines? Did constant price wars cause them to cut their own throats? Should we ever have been able to fly to England for less than $300 round trip? Does it make sense that a trip that cost $99 each way is still the same price 30 years later?
By Carol Sottili |
July 22, 2008; 6:23 AM ET
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