Compared with 25 years ago, flying is a tremendous bargain

In real terms, air fares in the U.S. are well below what they were 25 years ago. No news there. Even if fares are not adjusted for inflation, they are very often lower than they were a quarter-century ago.

That's not particularly newsy either. The fun part of the statistics collected by Minneapolis-based airline analyst Terry Trippler is the degree to which fares vary from (read: drop below) the fares of 1982.

Trippler's method was not science, but it was certainly random. Trippler stumbled onto an old Official Airline Guide and started reading it. He was inspired to search for current best roundtrip fares on 140 randomly selected nonstop routes to compare with the 1982 OAG's lowest-listed fares. (He used best alternatives if there was no nonstop on a route.)

He found that 72.9% of today's fares were lower than those from 1982. At the other end of the spectrum, 2.1% of the fares were $75 or more than those from 25 years ago.

After adjusting for inflation, all fares were lower than those from 1982, some by big numbers. About one in five fares were down $201 to $300, about 20% were down $301 to $400 and about 20% were down $401 to $500. About 10% were down $501 and $700. The two routes with the largest differences were Providence, R.I.-Las Vegas, with a savings of $802 in real dollars, and Charlotte, N.C.-Los Angeles, with a savings of $824.

On 52 routes, the savings was more than double the current best fare; on 10, it was more than triple; and on four (Boston-Richmond, Va.; Detroit-Sarasota, Fla.; Miami-Richmond; and Portland, Ore.-Philadelphia), the savings was more than four times the current fare.

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