Yep, airfare is officially as high as I’ve ever seen it

Gosh do I miss the good old days. Back when I first got into this hobby, $250 was expensive for a roundtrip transcon ticket. And most of my transcons included three connections in each direction, meaning I was flying about 4,000 miles in each direction.

Yes, airfare has progressively creeped up over the past few years, thanks largely to consolidation (and perhaps airlines realizing that losing 200 million dollars per quarter isn’t a sustainable business model… or something like that). But my gosh, ticket prices have gotten downright ridiculous. I’m trying to get to LA for a few nights over the coming months, so did an ITA search for a three night stay. Check out the best available fares on American:

So no matter how flexible I am with dates, there’s nothing for less than $500.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for a second blaming the airlines. $250 roundtrip transcons simply aren’t profitable for the airlines, so if they can get away with $500+ roundtrip fares, more power to them. But damn is it making my life difficult!

The interesting result is that international trips have actually become the most economical way to mileage run, despite the high fuel surcharges. I still see roundtrip tickets to China for $1,000, which net me about 20,000 elite qualifying miles. I’d need to do four transcon trips to net that many miles, and doing them at $250 a pop seems like a pipe dream nowadays.

Anyway, while I’ve just about requalified for Executive Platinum with American, I’m still itching to get out of Tampa on a semi-regular basis, and the current fares just make that near impossible.

Anyone else frustrated?

Filed Under: Mileage Runs, Travel
  1. Yeah, I book in one-ways just so I can see the $250 price tags.

    Any plans on 1K re-qualification this year?

  2. Yes, last year I was able to take advantage of a OAK-CMH deal for $220 that was often available, or a flight to NYC or WAS for the $300 range. Now I can’t find anything east cheaper than $500 unless its a mileage run deal that doesn’t last more than a few hours.

  3. I think we are due for a nice mistake fare. But, yeah, it has gotten painful to try and book a trip.

  4. I used to do BOS-SBA for $250-300… now IAH-SBA is $350 min and generally $550 when I book.

    Oil and labor are a doozy.

  5. @ Mark

    Was looking for SBA-BOS, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the ONE-WAY fare of $572. I ended up booking LAS-BOS (with the same SFO-BOS segment as the $572 fare ex-SBA) for $129 (sounds like those good ole’ days).

    I added a $35 Allegiant flight to LAS for a total of $165.

  6. Just paid $500 for a PHL-LAX-PHL transcon on UA. I certainly miss the $250 days as well. Even going to CAE from PHL has been about $400.

  7. yes, same experience. Where HNL-LAX has nearly doubled in the past couple of years. But unlike your mainland experience, fares to Asia out of HNL are also expensive.

  8. In short, your points will be worth more. Skymile pesos is sounding more like canadian dollars.

  9. Even 5 months out, flights from BWI to SEA were $420 minimum. Thankfully I have a (newly pressed) Southwest Companion Pass, so two of us are going for that price. Well, that price in RR points.

    The last time I flew to Europe was in 2005 from BOS – BCN, and it was ~$350. This summer we’re going BWI – MUC for $1488 each, ouch, ouch, ouch. Part of that will be offset by CapitalOne’s 100,000 mile promo, but still. Painful.

  10. Funny, but I have actually booked some of the cheapest domestic tickets of my life over the past few months. Perhaps it because I am in a less competitive market (MSP) or because I have started looking for AA or UA trips (not just NWA or DL as in the past). But I would have to agree AVERAGE tickets seem pricey.

  11. Perhaps the one small exception is the NYC/SFO market, where I’ve seen fares still around $300ish rt. On a good day, I’ve seen them as low as $250, and earlier this month I flew a $240 rt NYC-SFO, connecting through ORD both ways that netted me 8000+ miles thanks to DEQ11.

    In general, I’ve seen that SFO tends to be cheaper than LAX on average, sometimes significantly cheaper.

  12. Man if I didn’t know better I’d have though $500 transcons are good prices! I wish YYZ – YVR was always $500! Can’t believe how cheap US airfares are compared to Canada and here you are complaining :p.

  13. Living on the east coast w/ all family on the west coast I deal with transcon fares quite a bit. I’ve learned a few things: (1) start looking early – usually i see prices of 450-600, but will sometimes see gems. Case in point: a trip in late april was pricing at $600, but an AA sale caused the RT (with unfortunate connections) to price at $220. (2) since I travel with the fiance, I utilize 2x Alaska cards and 2x US Air cards for the companion benefits. These save a bundle and still give miles.

  14. Found/booked $169 a/i LAX-IAD-ATL-ORD-SFO-LAX. There were routes through IAD in lieu of ORD, but not on the date I needed to fly. I’m sitting in Atlanta right now after flying the first half. As part of the same trip I got ORD-IAH-SFO-LAX for $99.

  15. Hahhahah. I think of 300 CAD as a good deal YYC-YYZ. You guys are lucky and have nothing to complain about. Move to Canada, and a cheap mileage run becomes 5 cpm.

  16. Lucky, I have to thank you. Your blog is one of the few things that make me feel good about being older (56).

    When I first got the travel bug, not only were air fares this high, but rental cars as expensive or more. (True gas was dirt cheap).

    As far as even looking now for prices over Easter to/from Florida, surely you aren’t surprised at those.

  17. Dude, I’m jealous of the cheapp domestic fares you’re able to get. When I book a transcon I’m looking at $750 if I have tons of flexibility on flight times in both directions (I don’t), otherwise $1000. I never thought of myself as a high yield traveler and I’m still not, but I’m at least middle of the pack these days.

  18. You guys are making me feel better. I snagged BWI-SLC-PDX/SAN-ATL-BWI for 429 and was feeling dumb for not waiting to see if it went lower. Thanks!

  19. SUPER frustrated! SAN-PDX (the in-laws trip) has generally been ~$140 roundtrip…the new price is upwards of $330. Ugh.

  20. lucky, move to LA 😉 its your favorite city in the usa anyway … so you might as well move out here and take advantage of all the good deals us ex-LAX people have

  21. Yup. Looked at a Vegas RT from IAD just for fun. Thought about taking the wife out for a long weekend, just because. With airfare at $500 rt/pp, we’re pushing $1500-$2000. Um, no thanks. If I can do the whole thing for sub-$1k, ok, maybe. But $2k means extending an overseas trip for 10 days, so that’s where the money goes.

  22. Must check fares 3x daily to snag those $200 transcons that pop up from time to time. Thank goodness for the ITA mobile app and the Mileage Runs forum on Flyertalk.

  23. It’s called inflation! Airfare has been the most unrealistic commodity out there! I paid for a flight for $300 in 1995! Good lord people, get with the times and pay for what it actually costs, stop complaining! Not everyone can afford flying!

  24. Ben – all of a sudden In see passenger service charges appearing as taxes on UA award miles. $125 total from FRA including: German Passenger Service Charge and a German Airport Transportation Tax. These total $90. I am seeing similarly names taxes from JNB, ICN. all over. Is this a new thing at each country or is UA passing on for somethings it covered before. Once taxes through Asia were a few dollars. Not today.

  25. Lucky – At a high level, what will status do for you if you are not willing to pay the prices airlines are starting to charge?

    Expensive to get status + expensive to book Y flights with status hoping for an upgrade = Does striving for status make sense any more for the casual traveler?

    It just seems that mileage runners / status chasers are going to start leaving the game as it gets too expensive.

    Which will leave elite status for the people who actually need to travel (business) and can afford (pleasure) the new reality.

    What do you think? If you had to qualify for ExPlat on $500 transcons, would you do it?

  26. I signed up for Frequent Traveler University, then found fares SFO-EWR were running $660 RT. A few days later UA introduced a much cheaper fare into the market; I got R/T with nonstops for $280 all in. Not sure how long the $280 fare lasted.

    Lucky, if this trend continues, standard awards may start to look cost-effective for domestic travel :-(.

  27. I always look for nearby airports. It may be worth the hour plus drive. The guy from TPA could try to fly out of MCO. I live between FLL and PBI, but I’ll dash down to MIA for a flight that’s $100-$400 less. If you are in NY, you have EWR, JFK, LGA. In short, try the “closest” airports…

  28. A RT EWR-LAS during July, yes July, is 588. I am using 25k points and paying 5.00. Can’t remember the last time I redeemed for a Y domestic but I think this is the way to go the way prices are going.

  29. Fares are incredibly expensive for those I HAVE to fly, but cheap fromt he MR perspective. I just booked BWI-SAN for $204 a/i for MR. Doesn’t get better than that!! I do need to go to LAS in June and can’t find anything for under $550. Crazy

  30. UA seems to have limited transfers to 2 for all my usual transcons out of the west…

    airfares to / from florida are horrible…

    what is a mileage runner to do…

  31. Crazy high! I’ve been trying to book some family trips, and I’ve been watching for weeks…nothing on sale for the cities I need…

  32. No one said, “It’s the lower dollar” while the price of oil has been stable in some currency’s. It’s compounded in the States at the moment with rising oil price lower USD, yeah it’s clawed back a bit but compared to this time last year.

    Since most of your Airlines have had to deal with Chapter 11 in the last 5-10 years their costs are cut to the bone so any increase in costs is passed along much more efficiently for a sustainable airline. I see a lot of curtailing of perks still to come in the U.S. airline industry after all the are so jealous of the Qantas model that generated nearly 400 millUSD in profits from their FF program, enjoy it while you got it, some of the new charges, changes that are coming will knock your heads off!

  33. Those who complain about miles being devalued over the years should consider that if 25K miles used to get you a $250 ticket but now 40K miles get you a $500 ticket, they’ve actually gone up in value.

  34. If you thought 2012 was bad, look at fares this year!

    Fares from US to East Asia are around 150% higher than what I was paying just 2-3 years ago. Sorry, but my salary hasn’t jumped 150% over the last 3 years, it’s around 108% of what it was. Don’t know how they expect us to pay so much. I predict a steep drop in demand until fares drop back down to realistic levels. This is nothing other than pure tacit collusion and it’s a disgrace.

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