- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Airfares rose more in the second quarter of 2006 than at any time in the past 11 years, a new government report said.

But despite the price increases, the cost of an airline ticket is still well below its peak just prior to the September 11 attacks.

The national air travel price index, a measure of the change in the actual prices paid by air travelers, increased 3.1 percent from the index’s previous high in the first quarter of 2001.

The second-quarter 2006 index rose 5.3 percent from the first-quarter 2006 level, the sixth consecutive increase.

The price index, similar to the consumer price index, is computed using data from a 10 percent sample of all airline tickets sold on U.S. carriers. The transportation department began tracking ticket prices using the index in 1995 and bases the index on 1995 figures.

Tickets prices also increased for flights from the Washington area’s three major airports.

The index for tickets sold for flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports collectively increased about 8 percent for the second quarter compared with the previous quarter.

The second-quarter index at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) rose about 7 percent during the same period.

BWI reported average fares of $198.82, while Reagan Airport and Dulles Airport reported fares of $235.30 and $256.06, the transportation department said. The average cost of a ticket nationwide for the second quarter was $226.21.

Average fares haven’t significantly increased since 2001, largely because of the success of low-cost carriers and the increasing use of the Internet for comparison shopping, the report said.

Ticket prices fell slightly in August after rising in the spring and early summer, airline analyst Ray Neidl said.

Airline prices are about 3 percent below what they were pre-2001, he said.

“Traveling by air is still very cheap — by any historical measurement,” Mr. Neidl said.

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