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Summer airfares take a dip

Travelers watch as a plane taxis April 14 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta. After years of steadily rising airfare, travelers gets some good news this summer. The average roundtrip domestic ticket this summer drops to $454. (Associated Press)
Travelers watch as a plane taxis April 14 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta. After years of steadily rising airfare, travelers gets some good news this summer. The average roundtrip domestic ticket this summer drops to $454. (Associated Press)
Scott Mayerowitz Associated Press

After years of steadily rising airfare, travelers this summer can expect a tiny bit of relief – $2.01 in savings to be exact.

The average roundtrip domestic ticket this summer, including taxes, now stands at $454, down less than a percent from last summer. Vacationers to Europe will fare better with the average ticket down 3 percent to $1,619, about $50 less than last summer.

Not all travelers will get to save.

Flights to Hawaii, Florida and New Orleans are cheaper, but travelers heading to New York, Denver and San Francisco can expect to pay more.

Even in Europe, it depends on the destination. Overall fares are down but it will cost more this summer to fly to cities like Amsterdam; London; Budapest, Hungary; Lisbon, Portugal; Frankfurt, Germany or Reykjavik, Iceland.

Prices are coming down because airlines are now saving billions of dollars thanks to lower fuel prices and because more seats have been crammed into planes, spreading out costs over more passengers. European economic troubles are also keeping some seats empty as business travelers stay home.

The generally good news about fares comes in a report released Monday by the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and travel agencies such as Expedia, American Express and Carlson Wagonlit. The study looks at 4.1 million tickets purchased before March 31 this year and last year for travel between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Airfare during the first three months of this year was also lower, down 3.7 percent domestically and 8.9 percent internationally.

Even with the moderate relief this summer, prices are still higher than just a few years ago. The average domestic roundtrip ticket is still $13, or 3 percent, higher than it was in 2012. European trips are $60, or 3.9 percent, more expensive.

Travelers can thank lower oil prices and more seats on planes for keeping this summer’s airfare in check.

Airlines at the start of the year paid $2.13 for each gallon of jet fuel, down 30 percent from last year’s $3.03, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. With U.S. airlines burning through 42 million gallons of fuel a day, that 90-cent savings adds up quickly: $14.7 billion for the entire year if prices remain at these levels.

Travelers are only seeing a sliver of those savings. The rest of the money is being used to upgrade airplanes and airports, pay employee bonuses and reward shareholders as airlines continue to post record profits.

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