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Air fares fall again

Average domestic air fares dropped 9.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009 from the fourth quarter of 2008, the biggest quarter-to-quarter drop on record, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

BTS reports average fares based on domestic itinerary fares, round-trip or one-way for which no return is purchased. Fares are based on the total ticket value, which consists of the price charged by the airlines plus any additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include other fees paid at the airport or onboard the aircraft. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares” or a few abnormally high reported fares.

The $315 average first-quarter fares were down 5.9 percent from the first quarter of 2008 and down 12.5 percent from the record high average fares of $360 in the third quarter of 2008. First quarter 2008 fares were also 9.4 percent below the pre-9/11 first quarter high of $348 in 2001.

The first-quarter 2009 average fare represented a lower rate of increase than inflation both from the first quarter of 1995, the first year of BTS records and from the previous high for first-quarter fares set in 2001. In the 15 years from 1995, air fares rose 6.1 percent compared to a 40.5 percent inflation rate. From 2001, when the previous first-quarter high was set, fares declined 9.4 percent, compared to a 20.7 percent inflation rate.

Since 2005, average fares have risen less than the inflation rate. First-quarter 2009 average fares rose 4.5 percent from the post-9/11 first-quarter low of $301 in 2005, less than the inflation rate of 10 percent.

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