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Airfares down 50 percent from 30 years ago

Posted by Patrick Smith February 28, 2013 11:14 AM

WHENEVER I TAKE THE TIME to remind people of just how inexpensive flying has become, my inbox gets socked with hate mail. People simply hate flying, and the level of anti-airline contempt is so high that it has become almost impossible to say anything positive about the experience without being called a shill, a lackey, or worse.

I wonder if Derek Thompson, over at the Atlantic, is feeling the heat. Thompson just published a short but very revealing piece showing how the price of air travel has fallen 50 percent over the past three decades. You can read it here. It includes a remarkable graph, which I'll reproduce below:


Notice the upswing since 2009 or so, but overall the trend is very clear.

Normally when I bring this topic up, one of the regular rebuttals is the likes of, "Oh, well maybe base fares are down, but it's those [expletive, expletive] fees that are killing us!"

Except they're not. I realize that people feel nickel-and-dimed when asked to pay a surcharge for checked luggage, onboard food, or a reservation change. But as the graph clearly shows, these "unbundling" fees, as they're known, barely change the picture.


Welcome to Ask the Pilot, the blog for All Things Air Travel

Posted by Patrick Smith February 20, 2013 08:20 PM

Welcome to Ask the Pilot, a blog about All Things Air Travel.

Fewer things are more confounding, aggravating, and frankly, misunderstood than the experience of commercial air travel. Its mysteries are concealed behind a wall of specialized jargon, corporate reticence, and an irresponsible media that sensationalizes even the most insignificant incident. Almost everybody flies, yet much of what people think they know about flying is wrong.

In this space, I will answer your questions and address your worries and anxieties. I will also rant and rave about whatever facet of this weird and exciting business happens to be on my mind.

About me:


About the author

Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel columnist, author, and host of In his spare time, he has visited more than 80 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives in Somerville. More »

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