Thursday, September 14, 2017

Airline fares decline in August CPI

Airline fares resumed their string of monthly declines in August, according to the latest Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor.

Bureau of Labor Statistics logo, consumer price index CPIAfter posting a 0.7 percent increase in July, fares in August fell 1.0 percent, marking declines in four of the last five months. Fares dropped 2.7 percent in June and May on a seasonally adjusted basis and fell 0.6 percent in April.

With the airlines' continued focus on increasing ancillary revenue, there is an important caveat. While the BLS's calculations of airline fares include an allowance for checked bag fees, the BLS does not include other ancillary charges which represent an ever-larger percentage of airlines' overall revenue.

The agency found a certain percentage of passengers checked bags. It applies that percentage to all  incoming quotes during sample rotation and then assigns the appropriate checked bag fee (assuming one bag, for either one-way or round-trip, based on the description of the quote). It also applies baggage specs to airlines that do not charge for bags so that if they start to charge in the future, the BLS could easily incorporate that price increase.

Overall, the CPI-U rose 0.4 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 1.9 percent.

Increases in the indexes for gasoline and shelter accounted for nearly all of the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index. The energy index rose 2.8 percent in August as the gasoline index increased 6.3 percent. The shelter index rose 0.5 percent in August with the rent index up 0.4 percent. The food index rose slightly in August, with the index for food away from home increasing and the food at home index declining.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in August. Along with the shelter index, the indexes for motor vehicle insurance, medical care, and recreation all increased in August. The indexes for airline fares and for used cars and trucks were among those that declined in August.

The all items index rose 1.9 percent for the 12 months ending August, a larger increase than the 1.7 percent increase for the 12 months ending July. The 12-month change in the index for all items less food and energy remained at 1.7 percent for the fourth month in a row. It has remained in the range of 1.6 percent to 2.3 percent since June 2011. The energy index rose 6.4 percent over the past 12 months, and the food index increased 1.1 percent, the BLS said in its September 14 statement.

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