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Airfares Take Largest Ever Year-Over-Year Plunge

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) released its latest round of airfare data, for the third quarter of 2009, and the results confirmed what many of us expected: Airfares are way, way down.

In the third quarter of 2008, the average domestic airfare was $358, by far the highest mark since the BTS began tracking fares in 1995. But just a year later, in the third quarter of 2009, the average fare dropped to $306, a 14.1 percent change—the largest the BTS has ever recorded.

For a sense of the overall airfare trend, here are the average prices, by quarter, dating back to late 2007:

  • Q4 2007: $330
  • Q1 2008: $333
  • Q2 2008: $346
  • Q3 2008: $358
  • Q4 2008: $345
  • Q1 2009: $313
  • Q2 2009: $301
  • Q3 2009: $306

This should dispel any doubt that air travel is pretty cheap right now. The question is: How long will it last? Low fares kept the industry afloat for most of 2009, luring many people aboard who probably would not have flown at higher prices. 2010 will likely see airlines try to pressure prices upward, but if customers aren’t ready to pay higher fares, we could see a year that looks quite similar to 2009.

Readers, if you’ve been shopping around for travel in the coming year, do you feel that prices are higher or lower than what you’re used to?

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