The average domestic airline ticket price rose by 5.2 percent in the last three months of 2010 compared with the same period a year earlier, the government reported Wednesday.
That may not be news to people who traveled around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays — two of the busiest travel periods of the year. They paid an average of $337, compared with an average ticket price of $320 in between October and December of 2009.
Ticket prices varied widely. Travelers through Newark-Liberty airport in New Jersey paid an average fare of $461. Next highest were fares through Charleston, S.C., Fresno, Calif., Des Moines, Iowa, and Cincinnati. Passengers in Atlantic City, N.J. got the best deals, with an average fare of $156. The next lowest prices were in Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Myers in Florida and Long Beach in California.
Overall, ticket prices fell slightly — 0.9 percent — from the fall. Before that, average airfares had been steadily rising for a year. The average price is still 6.2 percent lower than the all-time high of $359 in the fall of 2008.
Looking further back, airline fares are cheaper than a decade ago. In the fourth quarter, they were 1 percent (about $3) lower than the same period in 2000, or 21.4 percent lower, after accounting for inflation.
The Transportation Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics calculated fares based on the ticket price plus taxes and fees. Fares don't include fees for checked baggage or other extras levied by individual airlines.
The winter statistics are the latest available from the government, but airlines are still raising fares.
And, despite raising prices more than a half-dozen times this year, most U.S. airlines still lost money in the first quarter due to higher fuel costs.