When it comes to airfares, you get what you pay for

By | September 19th, 2010

Here’s a fascinating graphic from our friend Bob Herbst, who shares a few numbers about airline ticket prices that might make you wish for the good ol’ pre-deregulation days, when airlines competed on service, not price.

During the last two decades, Amtrak’s average passenger revenue per mile is up 125 percent, and commuter rail revenues have jumped a respectable 45 percent.

Meanwhile, airlines are down nearly 10 percent.

Airfares haven’t even kept up with inflation.

Herbst’s take on the data?

Contrary to what politicians frequently attempt to suggest, airfares on average, are simply too low to cover the ever increasing and required costs for safe air travel.

A few more interesting facts:

✓ In 1990 there were 460 million passengers. In 2009 there were 704 million passengers.

✓ In 1990 there were 546 thousand airline employees. In 2009 there were 536 thousand airline employees.

✓ The US airline industry has lost money in 12 of the last 20 years and accumulated a net loss of approximately $29 billion (excludes airline bankruptcy and reorganization write-downs).

✓ Since January 1, 1990, there have been 98 US airlines file for bankruptcy.

✓ After twenty years of on and off airline industry growth, there are now two percent less airline employees responsible for a 53 percent increase in passengers. The numbers make it easy to see why there are so many complaints against the airline industry, says Herbst.

“Sometimes the old cliché: ‘You get what you pay for’ has true meaning,” he says.

Truer words were never spoken.