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Travelers gravitate toward low-cost carriers

/ Source: The Associated Press

Average air fares dipped slightly in the third quarter of 2007 as travelers increasingly opt for low-cost carriers and bargain-shop online, the Transportation Department said Wednesday.

The average domestic fare, including taxes and fees, was $328 compared with $330 in the third quarter of 2006, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The recent period's averages do not include frequent-flyer or a few abnormally high fares, while the year-ago results did. That change was made in the second quarter of last year, making the year-over-year comparison imperfect.

But the government said with more travelers booking on low-cost carriers, larger airlines have been forced to offer more competitive fares and jettison some restrictions, including the "Saturday Night Stay Rule."

Still, third-quarter fares rose slightly from the second-quarter average of $326.

The highest fares in the top 100 airports were in Cincinnati; Anchorage, Alaska; Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Grand Rapids, Mich. The lowest fares were at three Hawaii airports followed by Dallas Love and Islip, N.Y.