Is the cost of airfare finally on the way down?

The mileage run “hobby” has more or less been dead the past few years, as we’ve seen huge price increases on airfare due to consolidation and capacity cuts. Going back a few years I could almost always book a transcon for under $250 roundtrip, but as I noted a few months ago nowadays I’m lucky to find a transcon for under $500 roundtrip. As a result I’ve shifted much of my revenue flying to international travel. It’s still possible to fly almost 20,000 miles to China in the off season for around $1,000, which is much better than most domestic fares nowadays.

That being said, we’re coming up on Labor Day, which is pretty significant in terms of airfare. Historically fares go down after Labor Day as the busy summer travel season comes to an end, though the past couple of years I haven’t noticed it too much due to the capacity cuts and consolidation in the industry, which have kept prices high even in the off season.

But for as much as I complain about the high cost of airfare, I think I should mention that for the routes I monitor pretty regularly out of Tampa, airfare is lower than I’ve seen for quite some time now. I’m seeing plenty of transcons for $300-350. While that’s far from mileage run “material,” it’s a lot cheaper than I’ve otherwise seen lately, and is causing me to start booking most of my fall travel. The added incentive is that American prioritizes upgrades based on the time they’re requested, so booking early also greatly increases my chances of clearing upgrades (which I haven’t had great luck with lately).

For example, between Tampa and Los Angeles I’m seeing roundtrip fares of ~$325 all-in. It has literally been months since I’ve seen a sub-$500 fare between Tampa to Los Angeles, so this will definitely get me to book a few trips. Besides, it has been too long since I’ve stayed at the Andaz West Hollywood. Might just have to host a little get together if others will be in town as well.

Thank goodness there’s going to be a telephone on the Los Angeles to Chicago flight — I was worried!

Anyone else noticing the cost of airfare slowly decreasing, or is this just an isolated event? Here’s to hoping the pattern continues even further after Labor Day.

Filed Under: Advice, Mileage Runs
  1. Not yet but I hope so, I have several big trips to book and I am counting on the Labor Day Drop to edge some of the costs down.

  2. It’s definitely going down. Booked 3 RT JFK-SFO trips on DL already for less than $300 each. (Granted, about a nickel less, but that’s still better than last year.)

  3. Just wondering:
    To do a mileage run from tpa-lax, in which you will accrue over 4,000 miles for $325, how much are you paying per mile? did I calculate this wrong that I got 7 cents per mile?

  4. I am starting to see it as well – my wife and son are away visiting relos in the mid-west so I considered it a good time for some mileage runs (don’t ask how I explain it to the missus – “so, you can’t come to Dallas, but you can do a CLD-JFK mileage run??” …. but she’s becoming increasingly understanding about my “hobby”.

    Anyhoo, I have to fly to CLT in a few weeks for a wedding (SNA-EWR-CLT-IAH-SNA); and I was looking a week or so ago at the same itin for the past 2 weekends versus next weekend (post Labour Day) => a $300+ price difference. Same itin for around $300 mid-Sept; not the “killer app” for mileage runs, but a data point nonetheless.

  5. I have booked several same day pdx to Detroit via Houston. 5802 miles – $258.00. Similar pdx to bos via sfo, over 6.000 miles in one day.

  6. You are fortunate to be in Tampa, as it is not a hub and is more price competitive i would think. Flights from HNL are still a bit expensive to the west coast, i use my stash of sky kits to defray the cost.

  7. This week ive managed to book LAS-EWR-ALB one way for $158 for labor day Sunday …. Still 7.1cpm but definitely very reasonable in today’s fare levels

  8. @ Travel Lover — To clarify I’m not saying that TPA-LAX fare is mileage “runnable,” but rather just a lot lower than I’ve seen in the past for a quick weekend getaway/vacation. It’s 5,600 miles roundtrip (TPA-ORD-LAX-ORD-TPA) so at $326 is just under six cents per mile.

    @ Ken — Yep, all AAmerican nowadays!

  9. @Lucky – i am so close to switching to AA, just missed another upgrade on UA as a 1K, but 17 others were upgraded and there very few 1Ks in this market. This also means i won’t get any sort of food, not even a bag of peanuts, whereas EXPs on AA get food in coach. God how wish AA had a presence to Asia from here.

  10. Going to be staying at the Andaz West Hollywood for a couple nights before the FTU in LA. Diet coke and lime on me if you are coming in before the FTU and for sure at the FTU.

  11. Last spring, when I first checked SFO-NYC-SFO to attend Frequent Traveler University, the lowest fare was over $600 RT. Within a few days, UA had introduced a $280 fare in the market (first limited to off-peak days, then available every day). More recently I’ve been watching SFO-MSY-SFO. Much of the time fares are well over $400 RT, but I’ve seen several sales at $314 RT. I think the bottom line is – your mileage may vary (widely), and is highly route-dependent :-).

  12. I retired from running.
    My name is dhammer53 and I have MM status with United. That means I’m Gold for life…. or until UA changes the system.

  13. Of course it depends on your point of view. Over on the Disney equivalent to Flyer Talk (, the infrequent flyers lament the loss of the $200 airfare from the Northeast/midwest to Orlando. For them, airfares are crazy stupid high : )

    However, airfare during Thanksgiving week (before and after)from PDX to TPA was in the $400 +/- range for months. This is great in my book!

  14. I would just like to ask a question as i am based in the UK and not familiar with with interstates trips,do you guys earn same amount of miles or depend on the price paid??do you get upgrade whatever economy class you paid or it must be the highest eco to be entitled to be upgraded??as this is the norm in european companies.

  15. @ mohamed b — With the exception of full fare and paid first/business class tickets you earn the same number of miles regardless of which fare you book with the legacies. With many US airlines (including American) you get unlimited complimentary upgrades domestically regardless of your fare as a top tier elite.

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