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Maybe they get their money back in legroom?…

There’s so much doom and gloom in air travel these days that it’s high time for a reminder that not all developments have been all that bad. For one thing: air travel has never ever been more affordable or accessible. The friendly skies are no longer reserved solely for high rollers, and bucket list destinations no longer exist only in your dreams. The positives go far beyond price alone, too. Consider it optimism, but on a weekend celebrating the first direct commercial flight between Europe and Australia, it’s time to look back.

Annual Salary

I think we can all agree that there are 52 weeks in the year. In the late 1940’s a ticket from Europe to Australia or vice versa cost £585 ($827). At the time, that was 130 weeks of wages at median income. Yep – it took more than two years of earnings to cover a single journey.  Hardly the case now, is it? You can find very similar – if not even cheaper fares today, which are less than a weeks average salary in most Western countries. By that math, you could say prices have become 130x cheaper. Not bad, right? In the past week, we’ve showcased round trip economy flights from the US to Europe for $247, $386 from the US to Hong Kong and $1600 round trip business class flights from Europe to Australia. Oh, and it’s hard to forget $99 flights to Hawaii.

Point To Point

There are more point to point, direct flights than ever before. Through the decades, multi stop journeys just to get from one place to another have been increasingly cut in favor of direct traffic. Airlines realize customers want to spend the least time possible in transit and are moving deeper into regional airports to appeal to customers on a level of convenience. This now applies to long haul too, as airlines seek airplanes such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 to unlock smaller airports, rather than traditional hubs. Want to fly San Diego to Osaka rather than San Diego to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Tokyo, Tokyo to Osaka? That’s where things are going.

50% In 30 Years

Ok, we’ll admit – the Kangaroo Route example is a bit extreme. But even in the US, the average airfare versus inflation has fallen over 50% in the last 30 years. Salaries are up, and even with inflation the average airfare has plummeted. Why you may ask? An easy first guess would be increased competition. Look no further than the emergence of low cost carriers. Transatlantic airfare now dips under $300 from time to time, a mere 30% of previous fares before the launch of Norwegian, WOW Air and others. Southwest and JetBlue have had the same effect in the US, Air Asia has launched similar competition in Asia and JetStar has done the same for Australia. Need we forget Ryanair and EasyJet? Of course not – one way flights in Europe start at just €5. You just can’t beat that, can you?

How do you feel about air travel – then and now?

Featured image courtesy of Dreamworks “Catch Me If You Can”.

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