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Airfares' rate of climb not as steep in 2012

Domestic airfares rose 4.2% last year, compared with 8.5% in 2011 and 13% in 2010. But more airlines may adopt carry-on fees in the next year.

January 21, 2013|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • The cost of domestic airfares in 2012 averaged $427 per ticket, according to Airlines Reporting Corp. Costs have been falling in recent years. Above, Sarah Barlup and her son Joey are among those waitng to check their bags last month for a Southwest flight at Los Angeles International Airport.
The cost of domestic airfares in 2012 averaged $427 per ticket, according… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)

Domestic airfares have been climbing steadily since 2009, and there was no letup last year.

But the uptick in ticket prices was not as steep as in the last few years.

Domestic airfares increased 4.2% in 2012 compared with the previous year to an average of $427 per ticket, according to Airlines Reporting Corp., an Arlington, Va., company that completes the financial transactions between 16,000 travel agents and 187 airlines.

The good news is that the fare increases have been shrinking. In 2010, domestic airfares rose nearly 13% and climbed 8.5% in 2011, according to federal statistics.

But don't celebrate just yet. The fees that Spirit Airlines of Florida and Allegiant Air of Las Vegas charge to bring carry-on bags into the cabin may be adopted by other major airlines in the next year.

That prediction comes from George Hobica, founder of the travel website Airfarewatchdog, who got the tip from a source at one of the nation's largest airlines.

Travelers hate airline fees, but Hobica points out that deterring carry-on bags can speed up the time it takes to load and unload passengers.

Hobica predicts that once one of the nation's larger airlines — United, Delta or American — adopts a carry-on fee, other carriers will follow soon after.

"Don't see why they wouldn't do it," he said.

Fewer rooms booked for Obama inauguration

If you are heading to Washington this weekend for President Obama's inauguration, you may find that your hotel is not as crowded as it was in 2009, when he was sworn into office for his first term.

The number of rooms booked in the Washington, D.C. area from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21 is down 16% compared with four years ago, according to TravelClick, a New York company that provides e-commerce products and services to the hotel industry.

As a result of the drop in demand, hotel rates are down 11% compared with the last inauguration, the company said.

But the drop in numbers should be no surprise. Obama's first swearing-in boasted the largest attendance of any presidential inauguration in history, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. About 1.8 million people attended the ceremony in 2009.

Tourism officials in Washington estimate that the second inauguration ceremony should draw 600,000 to 800,000 people.

"Second-term inaugurations tend to be smaller than the first," said Robin McClain, a spokeswoman for Destination DC, the tourism bureau for the city. "The feeling in the industry is that there is certainly slower demand."

Southwest to redeem drink vouchers

For millions of Southwest Airlines passengers, the drinks are on the house.

The airline has reached a tentative settlement with passengers who sued Southwest over drink vouchers that were given to "business select" passengers before Aug. 1, 2010.

On that date, Southwest changed its policy, saying that even though the drink vouchers had no expiration date, the airline would honor them only on the date passengers were traveling.

In the lawsuit filed in 2011, the plaintiffs, Adam Levitt and Herbert Malone, said the policy change amounts to a breach of contract and made the coupons worthless.

The airline had previously said that it changed its policy because passengers were making photocopies of the vouchers to get free drinks.

Under the settlement, Southwest could be on the hook to redeem as many as 5.8 million vouchers. Since the airline charges $5 for alcoholic drinks, the settlement is worth as much as $29 million. The airline is also responsible for paying attorney fees of as much as $7 million.

If you think Southwest owes you a drink, go to http://www.southwestvouchersettlement.com to get details on how to file a claim for a new voucher. You must file before Sept. 2.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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