The Air Transport Association of America (ATA) reports that the average price to fly one mile in July was down 18 percent versus last year. This actually represents an improvement (for the airlines) over June’s 21 percent drop.
The ATA also said that despite this steep decline in the cost of a ticket, the number of passengers flown in July dropped by 4 percent over last year. July represented the ninth straight month in which passenger revenue dropped from the previous year.
With all the talk and speculation swirling around the airline industry, it’s often difficult to put things in a purely dollars-and-cents context. But make no mistake: Airfare is down, demand is poor, and the airlines are struggling. “The fact is that the number of air travelers continues to fall despite double-digit declines in fares,” said ATA President and CEO James C. May. “Clearly, with the difficult economic environment, demand for air travel remains weak.”
Of course, these numbers illustrate an industrywide average—airfares on some routes may be down even more, while some may be holding steady or even going up. But the overall picture is clear: Fares are cheap, but not cheap enough to turn business around. And that means we should continue to see discounts and sales in the months ahead, likely through year’s end.