Average domestic airfare rises 10%

Anyone who has flown in the last few months has probably noticed that the cost of flying in the U.S. has climbed beyond pre-recession levels. Blame higher fuel costs, increasing demand for air travel and tight controls on capacity by the airlines.

The average domestic airfare grew to $247 in the first three months of 2011, a 10% increase over the same period last year, according to data from American Express Global Business Travel, a division of the credit card company.

Before the recession sent airline ticket prices plummeting, the average domestic airline ticket peaked at $233 in the first three months of 2008, according to the report released last week.

But there is some good news for travelers: Hotel rates have not increased as fast in the same period, and they remained slightly below pre-recession prices. The average room rate nationwide rose to $150 in the first three months of 2011, a 3% increase over the same period in 2010.

A separate report by the business travel branch of the travel website Expedia found that average car rental rates fell to $32.16 per day in the first three months of 2011, a 5% drop from the same period last year.


But expect travel costs to continue to rise.

“If I shook my magic eight ball to the question, ‘Are the prices business travelers are expected to pay this summer going up?’ the answer would be, ‘All signs point to yes,’” said Christa Degnan Manning, a research director for American Express Global Business Travel. “It will likely be true compared to the prices they paid last year and the year before that.”

American to hand out tablets

If you board an American Airlines flight and the flight attendant hands you a Samsung tablet computer, it’s not a freebie to take home.

Beginning later this year, the hand-held tablet will be offered as an entertainment device for business- and first-class passengers on several transcontinental routes and some international flights to Europe and South America.

American announced last week that it was teaming up with Samsung to hand out 6,000 tablets, preloaded with in-flight movies and other entertainment. The device, with a 10-inch touch screen, will replace the airline’s current personal entertainment devices in premium cabins. Flight attendants will hand out the tablets after takeoff and collect them before landing.

American is not the first airline to introduce tablet computers in the cabin. Last summer, Australia’s low-fare airline Jetstar started offering iPads to passengers for rent for $10.

Hotel guests favor cleanliness

Cleanliness trumps personal safety, at least from hotel guests’ perspective.

According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., 43% of Americans said cleanliness was a top priority when choosing a hotel, compared with 23% who said price and 19% who ranked location at the top.

Only 11% chose security as one of the most important factors, according to the phone survey of 1,000 Americans in June.

“Travelers should take safety precautions more seriously, and hotel security should be higher on their checklist than cleanliness,” said Jim Villa, a Chubb senior vice president. “It seems that more people are concerned about bedbugs than security.”

Sing for a hotel room upgrade

If you are not shy about singing in public, Joie de Vivre hotels in Southern California are willing to give you a free room upgrade.

Until the end of September, guests who check into one of four hotels — Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach, Hotel Erwin near Venice Beach and Hotel Angeleno in Brentwood — can get a free upgrade if they perform live at check-in.

The hotels are offering one upgrade per hotel per day. The first guest to belt out one of the selected songs, including “California Gurls” by Katy Perry and “Hotel California” by the Eagles, gets the upgrade.

The hotels will videotape and post the performances on YouTube and Facebook for an online contest. The top vote getter wins a two-night stay at each of the chain’s Southern California hotels.