I had to pay for two round trip airfares between New York and Los Angeles this week. A quick look on Expedia showed that the cheapest fares were roughly $650. I was dismayed that the cost had gone up so much, given that just four years ago a round trip ticket could be had for as little as $340.
What's surprising, though, is not how expensive a ticket is now, but rather how cheap they were a few years back.
At the same time I could get a round trip airfare for $340, a one way ticket on Amtrak from Stamford to Boston was $119. Compare those values. For the $340 airfare, you were getting roughly 6000 miles in a vehicle traveling at roughly 550 miles an hour. For $119, you were getting roughly 200 miles at 60 miles per hour.
Amtrak's prices haven't gone up in the past four years, but airfares are still relatively inexpensive. Even at $650, you're paying only 11 cents per mile, compared to roughly 60 cents on Amtrak.
Or look at it this way. If you drove across the country and back in a car which got 30 mpg, and paid four dollars a gallon, the trip would cost you over $800 (highways are not as direct as air routes). That's ignoring the wear and tear on your car -- and assuming you slept in it the entire way.
Air travel is not the bargain it used to be, but it's still a bargain.
(This post was designed to make you a little nostalgic for rock bottom airfares, and maybe just a little less so for the SATs.)