Back in 1978, Congress enacted legislation that removed government regulation of airfares (and routes and timetables) while maintaining its control over airline safety. While this change stunk for labor unions and certain airlines that wobbled and collapsed in the competitive market (Alas, poor Braniff!), it’s generally paid off well for the rest of us.
The Air Transport Association, a trade association, has released a table that compares real prices of common consumer goods and services in 1978 and 2009 (not adjusted for inflation*), and reports that domestic airfare has only increased 42% and international airfare 52%.
Do those percentages sound high? Wait until you see the percentage increases in real prices for public college tuition (920%), prescription drugs (535%), a new car (348%), or a dozen eggs (103%) since 1978.
So, complain about pokey security lines, belligerent fellow passengers, and the complete demise of glamour in air travel, but as far as fares go, consumer interests are (Ah. Ha. Ha. Ha.) Stayin’ Alive.
* When adjusted for inflation, ticket prices are about 17% lower than they were in 1978, according to economic studies by the Brookings Institution and George Mason University.
Ann Shields is a senior online editor at Travel + Leisure.