The price of flying continues to climb, with the average domestic round-trip ticket, including tax, reaching $363.42 last year, up more than $7 from the prior year.
The 2 percent increase outpaced inflation, which stood at 1.5 percent for the year, and represents the fourth consecutive year of price hikes.
Airfares have risen nearly 12 percent since the recessionary low in 2009, when adjusted for inflation, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of fare data from the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and more than 9,400 travel agencies, including websites such as Expedia and Orbitz.
The price of flying has gone up as airlines have cut unprofitable routes, packed more passengers into planes and have merged with one another, providing travelers with fewer options.
Today, 84 percent of seats are filled with paying passengers, up from 82 percent in 2009. "Anyone traveling today will know that those flights are full," says Chuck Thackston, managing director of data and analytics for the Airlines Reporting Corp. "Just through supply and demand, those fares will go up."
And none of this factors in the bevy of extra fees travelers now face for checking bags, getting extra legroom or even purchasing a blanket, meal or pair of headphones. The typical traveler pays an additional $50 round-trip to check a single suitcase. Those fees, introduced in 2008 to offset losses from rising fuel prices, now bring in $3.4 billion a year for U.S. airlines.
Airlines pay slightly more than $3 a gallon for jet fuel, up from $1.89 in 2009. Another $2.7 billion a year is collected in reservation-change fees, with airlines charging up to $200 to revise an itinerary.