For Meridan Zerner and her two kids, Easter vacation started Wednesday, but not by choice. Flying midweek was the only way they could afford tickets from Dallas to Boston.
“I'm just used to having to pay a certain amount,” says Zerner, “so it's a bit shocking to have to pay more and to have to manipulate the schedule so much.”
The final price of $340 per ticket was almost double the price she paid for the same trip last year. That’s proof, say industry analysts, that Americans are willing to pay higher prices to keep flying.
“When Americans get their vacation, they’re going,” says airline industry analyst Terry Trippler. “If they’re going to see Grandma and they’re planning to see Grandma, $100 is not going to keep them home.”
Airlines have hiked domestic fares 16 times since January 2005.
Higher fuel prices are a big reason, but they've also reduced capacity — the number of seats available — from 89 million in 2001 to just 75 million seats today. That results in less supply, higher demand and airfares up 12.5 percent — with even bigger hikes on the way.
“We will probably see some of these airfares more than double by the time the last week of June comes in,” predicts Bestfares.com’s Tom Parsons.
That’s good news for struggling airlines, but a burden for some business travelers who've grown accustomed to cheap airfares.
Ivan Medanic consults for performing arts organizations like the Milwaukee Symphony. He flies to meet with clients several times a week.
“That adds up over the course of a four- or five-month project,” Medanic says, “and will definitely impact the bottom line.”
Still, Medanic says he'll keep flying despite higher prices. That's music to the ears of airlines with airfares that are taking off.