Time for a little reality check. Everyone is screaming about the unprecedented rise in airfares. Well, everyone is wrong.
Our good friends at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics released their first quarter airfares this morning. Granted, we’re already in the third quarter of 2008, and granted the numbers showed a healthy four percent increase from a year ago.
But look past the first chart. Go on, scroll down. See the one on airfares adjusted for inflation (Table 6)? The BTS numbers getting all the attention don’t account for inflation. But look at this …
Airfares have remained relatively steady during the last decade. But when you account for inflation, they’ve actually gone down.
Bottom line: air travel is still a bargain. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
(Disclaimer: I took a few liberties with arranging the data on the above chart — please refer to the original for the raw numbers.)
Can’t we all just get along?
Earlier this week, USA Today declared that some summer airfares had doubled, tripled — even quadrupled — with a sensationalistic headline that was worthy of this blog.
The nation’s newspaper called on “travel price guru” Tom Parsons of BestFares.com, who said the cheapest tickets available on many routes in July are “100 percent to 300 percent higher” than a year ago.
Then the competition pounced.
“I was so confused by the statements,” wrote the other travel price guru, Rick Seaney, on his blog. Then he proceeded to dismantle Parson’s numbers.
Article states, non-stop Detroit-Providence roundtrip travel in July is $595 — up 365% — not true — Northwest Airlines has the only non-stops (no competition) and Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, non-stop roundtrip 4-night trips in July are priced at $309 – $351 out-the-door (including the $21 in fees not mentioned on the noted fare). Departures Sun, Mon, Tue (non-stop 4 nights in July) are from $309-485 out-the-door.
Then the other travel price guru, Terry Trippler, joined in. This afternoon, he released a video that questioned Parson’s numbers. “The fares and facts just weren’t right,” he says, referring to Parsons only as “the source.”
“Just trying to keep them honest,” he adds.
What’s got their feathers all ruffled?
It could have something to do with the fact that USA Today remains the most credible source of airline news in the mainstream media. Being featured as the “travel price guru” means you’re the alpha wolf of air travel.
But I think it’s also true that there’s room for all three airfare experts, and probably a few more.
As an observer of the airline industry — but by no means an expert — I can’t believe USA Today (or any newspaper) would bother quoting airfares in an article when everyone knows prices change by the minute.
What they really need is a ticker to display the fare fluctuations in real time. And you can only do that online.