HARLINGEN — Nothing seems to be going down in cost these days, and airline travel is not an exception.
The average domestic plane ticket this year has increased by 25 percent over 2021, a reflection of commercial airlines having to pay significantly more for aviation fuel.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which tracks these sorts of numbers, the average domestic airline ticket as of July 13 is now $329.90. In February, it was $227.45
The good news, if it can be found, is that Valley International Airport passengers are paying more for tickets than they used to pay, but the tickets are the fourth-lowest ticket prices in Texas.
The average one-way domestic ticket out of Harlingen is $165, which ranks behind Austin and the Houston and Dallas airports. It is the lowest average ticket price in the Valley, Department of Transportation numbers show.
McAllen-Miller International Airport ranks 16th at $229, and Brownsville-South Padre International Airport is No. 23 at $260.
“We are the center of low-cost activity in the Valley, and that combination, it’s not only Southwest but also Frontier and Sun Country. The whole combo is what probably pushes the cost down a little bit,” said Nicolas Mirman, director of air service and business development at VIA.
Mirman said recruiting lower-cost airlines has been a strategy that has worked for VIA for decades and recently has placed the airport above or just at the 40,000-passenger level for the past several months.
“As we continue expanding, we want to continue attracting more service regardless, but we will be focusing a lot on continuing to bring in the low-cost carriers to our airport,” Mirman said. “I guess we’re lucky, or we’re happy, because it has proven for more than 40 years that the low-cost model does work very well here.”
Mirman attributes the relatively low fares across the board at VIA to the competitive pricing nature of airlines in each individual market.
“If you need to travel and you are looking for price, the chances are that at Harlingen one of our carriers will be offering a lower fare,” he said. “And the interesting thing, too, is because of the low cost here, the amenities, American and United also have to match that price.”
“Usually you expect to see more availability of seats at lower fares out of here,” he added. “Because they have to be competitive.”