With the cost still prohibitive for many, Congress and the Carter administration deregulated the industry in 1978. That opened the market to new interstate airlines and let carriers fly wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted, and at whatever prices they wanted.
The results were dramatic. In 1977, the average price paid to fly one mile was 8.42 cents, according to the ATA. Adjusted for inflation, that’s more than 30 cents a mile. Last year, travelers paid an average of 13.5 cents. In 1978, airlines carried 275 million passengers. Thirty years later, they carried 741 million. Roughly speaking, it costs less than half as much to travel today and nearly three times as many people are traveling.