Airfares climb ahead of busy summer travel season

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Earlier this week, one-way airfares for most U.S. routes went up $5, the first fare hike this year to affect a majority of domestic flights. The clincher came on Tuesday when Southwest Airlines, which has a long track record of resisting widespread increases in ticket prices, raised 180,000 individual fares by $5.

“We’ve never met a Southwest-blessed fare increase that didn’t ultimately stick at the industry level,” wrote airline analyst Jamie Baker of J.P. Morgan. “Extensive matching has already occurred, including at Alaska, Delta and United.”

In April, the travel website Hopper, which tracks airfares, found the average domestic round-trip ticket sold for $229 and is expected to rise as high as $240 by June before pulling back. While travelers may not like paying more for a plane ticket, the reality is airfares today are far lower than a few years ago.

“We are seeing domestic airfare down compared to the last two or three years,” said Hayley Berg, economist for Hopper. Berg attributes the lower prices to more competition on many routes and the expansion of ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit Airlines.

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