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U.S. airfares drop to lowest level since 2010

Airfares in 2015 were down nearly 4% from the previous year. Above, United Airlines passengers wait to deplane in Chicago in 2005.

Airfares in 2015 were down nearly 4% from the previous year. Above, United Airlines passengers wait to deplane in Chicago in 2005.

(Richard Derk / Los Angeles Times)

The average U.S. airfare dropped to $377 last year, its lowest level since 2010 and down nearly 4% from 2014, according to government data released Tuesday.

When adjusted for inflation, the average 2015 domestic airfare was down 3.8% from the 2014 price of $392, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

“This confirms what we have been saying: Air travel remains one of the best consumer bargains out there, as evidenced by the record number of people flying — 798.4 million people flew U.S. airlines in 2015,” said Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation’s airlines.

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Industry experts attribute the continuing decline in airfares to a steep drop in fuel costs over the last year and strong competition from low-fare airlines.

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But the government numbers don’t include the cost of additional passenger fees to check bags, board early or connect to onboard wi-fi and entertainment, among other things.

Critics of the industry, including several lawmakers, have called for the federal government to mandate minimum standards on seat sizes to stop airlines from trying to squeeze more passengers into each cabin.

The price of a gallon of jet fuel in North America has dropped to $1.16, down 36% from a year ago, according to the International Air Transport Assn., a trade group for the world’s airlines.

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When adjusted for inflation, the average domestic airfare of $377 is the lowest since fares were $365 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The average fare is calculated based on the total average purchase prices of a domestic trip, whether that is a round-trip ticket or a one-way ticket. It doesn’t include fares bought with frequent flier rewards.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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