Airfares rose record 43 percent annually: CPI

Airfares rose 42.9 percent over the past year ending in September, the fastest rate on record, according to Labor Department data released Thursday.

As demand for air travel rebounded to pre-pandemic levels this summer, airlines cut down on their flight schedules to reduce delays and cancellations stemming from a shortage of workers and to blunt the impact of rising fuel costs. The limited number of seats drove up prices.

The consumer price index (CPI), which measures inflation, found that overall prices rose 8.2 percent over the past 12 months and 0.4 percent in September. Last month’s report showed airfares rising 33 percent annually.

Airfares have risen faster than other goods and services in part because they were exceptionally low when travelers were more concerned about the pandemic. The U.S. endured a brief COVID-19 wave in September 2021.

Ticket prices will remain high going into the holiday season. Christmas airfares are up 55 percent from last year and 19 percent higher than 2019 prices, according to data from travel booking app Hopper.

Higher prices are boosting the bottom lines of carriers, which are gradually returning to profitability after reporting years of losses during the pandemic.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said Thursday that the airline enjoyed all-time high revenues in the third quarter despite operating on limited capacity.

“The travel recovery continues as consumer spend shifts to experiences and demand improves in corporate and international,” he said in a statement.

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