Air fares start to worry agents and passengers

Airlines’ fares this summer could be their highest in years

Two couples from the US had a shock recently when their travel agent confessed that their trip to Italy would be $200 more expensive – per person, each way – because of a fuel surcharge. That meant an extra $1,600 on top of the ticket price. Now agents and travellers alike are watching with horror as air fares keep climbing. And, as leisure travellers start to book their summer vacations, there seems to be no end in sight. Fares this summer could turn out to be their worst in years.
Travel experts say they have no idea how high fares will go. “If I knew that answer I’d be a millionaire,” says one. “I don’t think there’s anybody in the industry who could tell you. There are so many factors playing into it right now.” It seems to be the way that fuel surcharges keep increasing that is so unusual this year. The cost of fuel is 30% or 40% of many airlines’ costs, especially burdensome with the high oil prices. But agents and passengers are also worried about how, on top of that, airlines are starting to charge additional fees for everything from checked bags to making reservations by phone.
[pictured: The Rolls-Royce Trent 500 powers the Airbus A340-500/600; this photograph is reproduced with the permission of Rolls-Royce plc, copyright © Rolls-Royce plc 2010]