Airfares have been dropping, but are they about to jump because of higher fuel costs?
The average domestic airfare in the United States dropped for the April-through-June period to $356, the lowest level for that period since 2009, according to federal statistics.
The decline came at a time when fuel costs were sinking and airlines were generating hefty revenue from passenger fees. But for the last four months, jet fuel costs have jumped 19%, a sign that airfares could rise in the near future, analysts said.
When adjusted for inflation, the $356 average fare is the lowest since the $345 average fare for the second quarter of 2009, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The fare is based on the average of all ticket prices — one-way and round-trip — paid for by travelers on U.S. airlines.
Airfares have been on the decline for two years because of low and relatively stable fuel prices and strong revenues from passenger fees such as charges to check bags and change reservations.
In the second quarter, the nation’s biggest airlines collected $1.17 billion in baggage fees and reservation change charges, the only fees the government tracks, up from $1.07 billion in the same period last year.
Since the end of June, the average price of a gallon of jet fuel has jumped from $1.36 to $1.62, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Analysts said the rising fuel costs could push airfares higher, but it may take several months before the higher ticket prices show up. Competition from low-cost airlines should keep fares from rising too sharply, they said.
“I don’t expect fares to do a whole lot,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive of the website Farecompare.com. “These changes take months instead of weeks to take effect.”
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