AP: Bill to revert to old system of advertising airfare moving ahead at “mach” speed

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

We may have some bad news for those of you who like straight-forward airfares.

According to the Associated Press, a bill favored by the airline industry that would allow carriers to revert to their old practice of advertising fares without taxes is moving through Congress at “mach speed.”

As you know, a lot of bills tend to just languish in Congress. And when I wrote about the “Transparent Airfares Act of 2014 — last month for our newspapers, I figured this bill would be the same. Consumers, who are also voters, don’t like it. I figured the proposed legislation would just die, perhaps to be reintroduced in a future Congress.

But apparently Washington watchers think otherwise. The AP seems to be suggest that the bill could become law. That would mean an airline could once again advertise a $99 fare, without saying that the actual ticket would end up costing about $35 more, due to all those taxes and government fees.

The AP says the airlines have stepped up their lobbying game in recent years.

“Thirty airlines spent nearly $30 million on lobbying and employed 213 lobbyists last year, according to the political money-tracking website OpenSecrets.org,” reporter Joan Lowy wrote.

The story also notes that bill sponsor Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, …”has received $64,900 in airline contributions so far in this election season, making him the top congressional recipient of airline contributions.” On top of that, he has taken $22,500 from air transport unions, according to the story.

What do you think? Will this bill become law? Might it languish in the Senate? Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., has already announce that he wants to try to block it.

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Average Domestic Airfare: Relatively unchanged from this time last year

Here’s another example of why you probably shouldn’t complain about high airfares. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics released its 2013 first quarter airfare data on Wednesday, and it shows fares are considerably lower than they were 15 years ago.

I suppose you could be upset that fares have risen slightly since 2007. But it should have been expected that fares would climb slightly once the economy improved.

Below is the data:

Table 1. 1st Quarter Average Fare 1995-2013, Adjusted for Inflation 

Average Fare in 2013 dollars ($) Year-to-Year Percent Change in Average Fare (1Q to 1Q) (%) Cumulative Percent Change in Average Fare (1Q 1995 to 1Q of each year) (%)
1995 444
1996 409 -7.9 -7.9
1997 415 1.5 -6.5
1998 440 6.0 -0.9
1999 450 2.3 1.4
2000 456 1.3 2.7
2001 420 -7.9 -5.4
2002 402 -4.3 -9.5
2003 397 -1.2 -10.6
2004 375 -5.5 -15.5
2005 365 -2.7 -17.8
2006 378 3.6 -14.9
2007 364 -3.7 -18.0
2008 373 2.5 -16.0
2009 335 -10.2 -24.5
2010 357 6.6 -19.6
2011 375 5.0 -15.5
2012 378 0.9 -14.8
2013(1Q) 379 0.1 -14.7


Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Note: Percent change based on unrounded numbers 

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Jet fuels pricing are going down. Will airfares follow?

If you’re a regular flier, you know that airlines often blame high fuel prices when they raise fares. But the U.S. Department of Transportation came out with new data this week, and fuel prices are actually trending down.

This should be good news for passengers. But would you suppose we’ll see fare prices going down?

Cost per gallon for U.S. airlines’ scheduled services:

May 2012       $3.03
April 2013      $2.85
May 2013        $2.71

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In May, seven LAX flights were chronically delayed

If May’s data is any indication, you might want to avoid certain airline flight.

The U.S. Department of Transportation published a list this week of 170 flights that arrived 30 or more minutes late at least half the time in May.

The worst offender? A Go! flight operated by Mesa Airlines from Honolulu to Kona. It was at least 30 minutes late 80 percent of the time in May. The average delay was 69 minutes.

I was surprised to find some Southern California flights on the list, as our airport operations here are generally efficient. Here are the flights — all involved LAX — that made DOT list. (For this grouping, only 30 minute and greater delays are considered)

Carrier         Flight   Origin-Dest   Dept. time  % late flts Avg. Delay 
Southwest   3225       SJC-LAX         2000             60%          77 min.
Frontier        419         DEN-LAX         2055             55%          141
Southwest   1345       LAX-LAS          2145             55%            75
Southwest    655        SFO-LAX         1355             55%            60
Southwest    1345      SFO-LAX         1955             55%            72
American      2467      DFW-LAX        1715             52%            98
American      231        MIA-LAX            1800            52%            65

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Airline on-time performance: How prompt is your favorite carrier?

The U.S. Department of Transportation has published its monthly list of the most on-time airlines. As usual — thanks to that great island weather — Hawaiian Airlines is No. 1.

It’s important to note that an “on-time arrival” actually means that a plane parked at the gate within 14 minutes of its schedule arrival time. It’s also important to understand an airline sets its own schedule, and some carriers are more aggressive with scheduling flight times than others. If it wants, an airline could “pad” it’s schedule to ensure it rises on this list.

Most airline executives tell me that on-time performance is the single-biggest driver of customer satisfaction.

Here’s the whole list, both for this month, and the year to date:

Airline On-Time Arrival Pct May 2013

Carrier                 On-Time Arrival Pct.
1 Hawaiian                    92.37
2 Alaska                        89.62
3 Delta                          86.24
4 AirTran                       83.11
5 SkyWest                    82.21
6 US Airways                81.99
7 Pinnacle                     81.16
8 JetBlue                       80.28
9 United                         79.72
10 Southwest                79.01
11 Virgin America          78.14
12 American                  76.22
13 ExpressJet               73.89
14 Mesa                        73.83
15 Frontier                    73.23
16 American Eagle       69.89
All Airlines                     79.42

Airline On-Time Arrival Pct Jan-May 2013

Carrier                        On-Time Arrival Pct.
1 Hawaiian                     92.13
2 Alaska                         87.79
3 Delta                           86.06
4 Virgin America            85.11
5 AirTran                        83.11
6 US Airways                 82.01
7 Southwest                  81.27
8 United                         80.02
9 SkyWest                     79.95
10 Pinnacle                   79.54
11 Mesa                        78.51
12 American                 77.70
13 JetBlue                    74.40
14 American Eagle       72.13
15 ExpressJet              71.53
16 Frontier                   71.22
All Airlines                   79.40

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