Mark Perry reviews the numbers:
The top chart above shows average airfares in the U.S. (adjusted for inflation in 2011 dollars) for domestic travel on annual basis back to 1979 (the year that airlines and airfares were deregulated) based on data from Airlines for America, both with fees (blue line) and without fees (red line). Even with fees that averaged $21.77 last year for: a) baggage ($12.77) and b) reservation change fees ($9.00), the average total fare of $365.23 in 2011 was more than 40% below the 1980 airfare peak of $611.76.
Despite an increase in fares and fees that averaged $16.46 in 2011 and $26.29 in 2010 (from the all-time low fare in 2009 of $322.48), the average fare last year of $365.23 with fees was still slightly below the fare ten years ago in 2001 of $373.44, and 23.5% below the average fare 20 years ago of $477.11 and 39% below the average fare 30 years ago of almost $600. And considering that oil prices increased by an average of 29% in 2010 and almost another 20% in 2011, those increases in fuel costs dwarfed the small increases in airfares of 8% in 2010 and 5% in 2011.