The cost of flying today is a REAL bargain

A YouTube video on air travel that featured an American Airlines flight schedule from 1967 encouraged me to do a comparison: In real dollars, how (in)expensive is flying today?

The hard-copy (!) schedule listed a "coach" ticket price from New York to Los Angeles of $145 each way, plus tax. Considering that sales tax back in the day was less than today, I added five percent for a total round-trip price of approximately $314.50, which is pretty close to the $286.50 we used to pay on AA to fly from Phoenix (PHX) to Chicago (ORD) in the mid-60s.

How does that compare to today's prices? Not surprisingly, it makes todays' prices look like a real bargain. According to aa.com, a round-trip Main Cabin ticket from JFK to LAX, purchased on a two-week APEX (advance purchase) basis is $338 in 2020 dollars.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 2020 prices are 678.2 percent higher than in 1967, meaning that $100 in 1967 are worth $778.20 today. It also means our round-trip ticket should cost about $2,133, all else being equal.

Of course, things aren't equal. Much has changed about the airline industry in the last 50+ years, including the attentiveness of service, the comfort of the airplane seats, the average age (and attractiveness) of the flight attendants. And, oh yeah, nickel-and-dime charges.

Which brings me to my overarching point.

Nickel-and-dime charges need to go. Sure, they've been credited with "restoring profitability to the airline industry" (at least before the current pandemic) but, looking at historical prices, there's no reason an airline couldn't provide an all-in price of, say, $400 from JFK to LAX, then make the case that I've just made: that, in real dollars, flying costs about one-fifth of what it cost in 1967. Still a bargain, and without the bullshit of charging for every little thing.

It isn't rocket science, or even aeronautical science. It's barely Econ 101. Provide us with a more-or-less all-in price (food, drink and early boarding should probably remain at the passengers' discretion), then point out how good we have it compared to the "good, old days."

American Airlines is (NASDAQ:AAL)

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