Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Airline fares rise for second consecutive month in March CPI

Airline fares rose 0.6 percent in March 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 CPIFares had increased 0.6 percent increase in February, wiping out the 0.6 percent decline posted in January.

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 decreased 0.1 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.2 percent in February. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 2.4 percent before seasonal adjustment.

A decline in the gasoline index more than outweighed increases in the indexes for shelter, medical care, and food to result in the slight seasonally adjusted decline in the all items index. The energy index fell sharply due mainly to the 4.9-percent decrease in the gasoline index. The index for food rose 0.1 percent over the month, with the indexes for food at home and food away from home both increasing.

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.2 percent in March, the same increase as in February. Along with shelter and medical care, the indexes for personal care, motor vehicle insurance, and airline fares all rose. The indexes for apparel, for communication, and for used cars and trucks all declined over the month.

The all items index rose 2.4 percent for the 12 months ending March, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending March 2017 and higher than the 1.6-percent average annual rate over the past 10 years. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.1 percent, its largest 12-month increase since the period ending February 2017. The energy index increased 7.0 percent over the past 12 months, and the food index advanced 1.3 percent, the BLS said in its April 11 statement.

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