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Airfares to remain high throughout this decade

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Mar 8, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: I had a rare, rare treat flying back from Atlanta Monday night. The seat next to me — if you can believe it — was actually empty.

I mention that because the Federal Aviation Administration issued its annual air travel forecast today. ‘Grim’ sums it up pretty well: Crowded planes and expensive tickets as far as the eye can see. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer reports.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer: Think you don’t have enough elbow room on flights now? Just wait. The FAA says the average plane is now 82 percent full, and that’ll go up to 83 percent. Fuel prices will also rise, to $140 a barrel by 2032.

Airline analyst Darryl Jenkins.

Darryl Jenkins: In the 1990s, jet fuel was about 15 percent of your operating costs. Now, for a lot of airlines, it’s half your operating costs.

Those higher costs will be passed onto us. You’ll have to work harder to get a bargain, according to bestfares.com CEO Tom Parsons.

Tom Parsons: Just be patient. Keep an open mind. Maybe think four, six, eight, 10 weeks out.

Parsons says fares will continue their slow, steady climb. Still, the FAA says more and more people will fly, and we’ll reach a billion passengers a year in 2024.

Of course, long-range predictions are notoriously difficult. Back in 2001, the FAA said we’d reach the billion mark by 2010. Then came the 9/11 attacks.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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