In order to fully understand the airline industry and how fares are determined, it's necessary to go back to 1978 when deregulation first occurred. According to the Library of Congress, the 1978 bill that was passed would "amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to encourage, develop and attain an air transportation system which relies on competitive market forces to determine the quality, variety and price of air services, and for other purposes." So, after twenty years of stable airline fares, the major airlines were able to compete in a global market for your travel dollars. The immediate effect was lower air prices which, when combined with land packages, contributed to the boon in air travel.

On the downside, some carriers could not maintain their edge and were forced to either shut down or merge with other airlines. For the consumer, however, the deregulation afforded the opportunity to fly as cheaply as $50 or less each way to destinations such as Florida and other cities in the United States. While there were restrictions on the days that these flights were available, air travelers were nonetheless assured of getting the best prices at any given time throughout the year.

Today's air travel is a different story altogether. In order to obtain cheap airfares, you may be required to book your reservation at least a month in advance, agree to accept mid-week travel days or travel during the off-peak season, and adhere to the many restrictions the airlines have imposed. With fuel prices at a recent all-time high, a number of carriers have compensated by charging up to $15 per piece of checked luggage, quickly making those 'bargain' airfares not so much of a bargain after all.

However, there are ways in which you can pay less for airfares. On Wednesday of every week, the airlines post their new air fares. This, then, would be an advantageous time to check with them to determine what prices each individual carrier is offering. Additionally, hooking up with group tours is another effective means of spending less for your air ticket. This is due to the fact that the group seats are purchased in bulk, making the price significantly lower. Therefore, check online or with your travel agent to determine if there are any seats available (even though you may not wish to purchase an accompanying land package). And, speaking of the Web, with the advent and popularity of online travel companies, be sure to visit them early and often to find cheaper airfares. These sites monitor the airlines' prices and seat availability, and typically offer side-by-side comparisons of carrier airfares.

Deregulation has made available to average consumers the best possible air fares, although the airline industry as a whole has suffered some losses for it. If you're looking for cheap air fares, research the travel companies online or speak directly with a travel agent. Remember that there will probably always be restrictions of some type or another for cheap airfares, so planning your travel well in advance is one of the most advantageous things that you can do.

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