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Airline ticket shock

POSTED June 12, 2012 9:49 p.m.

As the days get longer and the temperature rises, a familiar feeling of wanderlust comes over me. I don’t know if it’s the sunshine or a flashback to the “school’s out” mentality of my youth, but I feel the need to travel.

Fortunately, my generous employer offers paid vacation days — unfortunately, I will have to sell a kidney to afford a plane ticket this season.

The cost of air travel has gotten to the point of ridiculousness. I am originally from the great state of Indiana, and I travel there often to visit with friends. This July happens to be my 20-year high school reunion, so I recently jumped online to find a cheap airline ticket and my heart just about stopped. The cheapest roundtrip ticket I could find was $440. That is $140 more than I usually spend to travel to the land of Hoosiers.

I love my home state, and no offense fellow Husky grads, but my class reunion isn’t worth the $1,000 I’ll have to spend on getting there, eating and buying a ticket to the reunion.

After talking with a few other folks, I found that many a family reunion and annual vacation has been canceled this year due to the high cost of air travel. Why the drastic increase in the cost of plane tickets? All you have to do is visit your local gas station to find the number one reason — rising oil prices.

“2012 continues to be a challenging year for airlines. The risk of a worsening Eurozone crisis has been replaced by an equally toxic risk—rising oil prices. Already the damage is being felt with a downgrade in industry profits to $3.0 billion,’’ said Tony Tyler, International Air Transport Association’s director general and CEO, in a March story posted on Travel Agent Central.

The increasing costs of air travel began in 2011, when ticket costs were the highest on record at $364, up 8.3 percent from 2010, according to a report by the Federal Aviation Administration.  The 2011 fares were up 5.2 percent from 2008, which at $346 was previously the highest year on record since 1995, not adjusted for inflation.

The ever-increasing cost of airline tickets will not hamper overall demand, however, according to the Transportation Security Administration, as more than 200 million people are expected to travel this season. This demand for travel is probably attributed mainly to business and family obligations (weddings, funerals) that don’t stop just because the cost increases.

While I’m still upset that I probably won’t be singing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” with 20 of my former high school classmates come July, my wanderlust can be sated without stepping foot on an airplane.

Living in the Central Valley can be tiresome at times — with the allergies, crime and commuting traffic — but it also has its advantages. A wonderful summer vacation is only hours away by car, bus or train. Within two hours I can be frolicking in the Pacific Ocean or hiking the Sierras.

I can plan a day of culture and culinary adventures in San Francisco and then spend the evening fishing by a Valley lake. Living in California, the possibilities are practically endless.

I may be spending more at the gas pump to drive this summer, but every time I start to complain I’ll remind myself that with $440 worth of gasoline I can see the whole state of California, not just a Midwest airport.

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