U.S. airlines may have had trouble raising fares so far in 2012, but they've gone a long way to making up for it with some impressive numbers on the surcharge side of the equation.
Airline ticket sales processed through travel agencies — including both offline and online — rose 4.85% during the first eight months of 2012, and they were propelled by rising domestic fares and a whopping increase in fuel and ticket surcharges.
The latest statistics, from the Airline Reporting Corporation, which settles travel agency sales with airlines, indicates that total U.S. travel agency airline ticket sales from January through August 2012 rose 4.85% to $60 billion.
Sales rise much faster than segments
The 4.85% increase in ticket sales was far greater than the slight uptick in flight segments, which climbed just 0.24% to 253.9 million segments, according to the ARC report.
Much of the increase in sales came from domestic fares, which rose 3.12%, while international fares dragged down the numbers, falling 1.01%, the ARC statistics show.
The division between domestic and international airline ticket sales for U.S. travel agencies was almost even, amounting to 52.7% and 47.3%, respectively.
Overall, the fare portion of U.S. travel agencies’ airline ticket sales increased 1.13% from January to August 2012, ARC reports.
The most eyebrow-raising portion of the sales numbers came in the “airline fees” category, which skyrocketed 66.8% to $4.4 billion during the first eight months of 2012.
Airline fees, as defined by ARC, include fuel surcharges and ticket surcharges. These numbers do not include bag fees and onboard meals, for example, which generally are collected by the airlines and not travel agencies.
Total taxes and fees, including these fuel and ticket surcharges, as well as taxes and non-airline fees, increased 26.29% to nearly $10.6 billion, the ARC numbers show.
What does it all mean?
Passengers who booked their flights through travel agencies for the first eight months of 2012 saw domestic fares rise and international fares dip a bit, while airline fuel and ticket surcharges were off the charts, rising 66.8%.
Airlines had well-documented difficulties raising fares so far this year, and made more headway on the domestic rather than international front.
And, the most significant headway in the overall sales increase came in parts of the ticket that were not part of the basic fare — i.e. fuel and ticket surcharges.
And, all of this occurred despite the fact that the number of flight segments was basically flat, edging up just 0.24%.
These ARC numbers don’t include sales processed through the airlines’ own channels, including their airline websites and call centers.
Click through for the ARC table detailing its 2012 travel agency processing data through August.