Planes packed with summer travelers should be a sign of success for airlines, but new data shows the average domestic airfare for the first part of 2016 dropped nearly eight percent over last year. That's the lowest point since 2010.
Ultra-low fare carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant have grown aggressively. They've expanded capacity just as terror attacks in Europe, economic uncertainty in Britain, a strong dollar, and increased competition are cutting into lucrative routes for United, American, Delta and Southwest -- despite low fuel prices.
"I think you'll see airlines have lower profits than they would have expected for the back half of the year and for 2017," said Josh Marks, an airline consultant.
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"The major carriers are seeing a lot of competition on routes, particularly in leisure markets where they had a significant market share before. We've now seen growth by ultra-low cost carriers that are really offering rock bottom fares."
On average, vacation fares have dropped 17 percent since last July.
Los Angeles to Paris round trip often went for as much $1,500 -- now it can be as low as $400. New York to Hong Kong was $900 a year ago, now it's under $500 bucks. Chicago to San Diego rarely dipped below $200 before ultra-low carriers added service, dropping fares as low as $80 bucks round trip.
George Hobica runs Airfare Watchdog, a website tracking airfare.
"I think for domestic travel these are some of the best airfares that we've seen in five years. For international travel, on some routes, the best airfares that we've ever seen."
The airline business is notoriously boom or bust. Last year brought record profits. Airlines are now lowering their expectations for the rest of the year.