Domestic travelers paid an average $390 for round-trip flights in the third quarter of 2013, a 5.1 percent increase from a year earlier. Rapacious airlines reaping the rewards of industry consolidation? Not quite. That average domestic fare has declined more than 11 percent since 1995, according to inflation-adjusted data released on Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Airlines often point to such declines when defending the necessity of their merger spree and the fact that fierce competition still exists in the industry.
But not all airports are equal—and the ones with a dominant hub airline tend to extract more from travelers’ wallets. Of the five airports with the highest average fares, three of them are United hubs: Houston-Bush ($507), Washington-Dulles ($506), and Newark-Liberty ($491). Another in that group, Cincinnati ($531), has been a Delta Air Lines hub for many years. Delta has curtailed its flights there, but the airport has been unable to lure much discount airline service beyond Frontier’s nonstop flights to Denver.