AP Television - AP television Clients Only

New York, Recent

1. Various, airport footage

2. SOUNDBITE (English) Scott Mayerowitz, AP Airlines Writer:

++Note - partially overlaid with footage from airports ++

"The price of flying continues to climb with the average round-trip ticket climbing 2 percent last year, outpacing inflation by a half percent. The average domestic round-trip ticket now costs $363 and that's before we even factor in baggage fees which can be as high as $50 per person round-trip. Airlines are looking for every possible way to make money. They've cut unprofitable routes, they've packed more people into planes and thanks to mergers there's less competition out there so they can raise prices when and where they want to. Consumers have suffered because of that. In the last five years we've seen airfare climb 12 percent when adjusted for inflation. In that same five-year period, airlines are paying about a third more for jet fuel. It's the largest single expense and it makes up most of this increase in airfares. While airfare is higher, the biggest profit for airlines is actually coming from all the fees. They take in more than $3 billion a year from baggage fees and another $2.7 billion from fees related to changing reservations. Without those fees airlines would not be profitable and that has really helped save the industry and turn a profit in the last four years. There's little relief ahead for fliers. Starting July 1 the tax we pay for security screening at the airports is going to go up and that's going to add a few more dollars to everyone's ticket, or about one billion dollars across the industry."

STORYLINE:

The price of flying continues to climb, with the average domestic roundtrip ticket, including tax, reaching $363.42 last year, up more than $7 from the prior year. (Jan. 16)

The 2 percent increase outpaced inflation, which stood at 1.5 percent for the year, and represents the fourth consecutive year fliers have faced price hikes.

Airfares have risen nearly 12 percent since the recessionary low in 2009, when adjusted for inflation, according to an Associated Press analysis of fare data from the Airlines Reporting Corp., which processes ticket transactions for airlines and more than 9,400 travel agencies, including websites such as Expedia and Orbitz.

The price of flying has gone up as airlines have cut unprofitable routes, packed more passengers into planes and have merged with one another, providing travelers with fewer options.

Today, 84 percent of seats are filled with paying passengers, up from 82 percent in 2009.

And none of this factors in the bevy of extra fees travelers now face for checking bags, getting extra legroom or even purchasing a blanket, meal or pair of headphones.

A wave of consolidation that started in 2008 has left four U.S. airlines _ American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines _ controlling more than 80 percent of the domestic air-travel market. Discount airlines such as Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines have grown at breakneck speed but still carry a tiny fraction of overall passengers.

Starting July 1, fliers will also face higher taxes. The government's security fee is currently $2.50 each way for a nonstop flight, capped at $5 each way if a traveler has a connection. This summer, that fee will be $5.60 each way whether or not there's a connection. The fee hike is estimated to cost travelers an extra $1 billion a year.