Sky-high air fares coming back down to Earth

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10-12-10 Southwest Airlines at Midway airport. photo by Jean Lachat/Sun-Times

What it cost

Average summer round-trip fares from Chicago to:

♦Dublin: $1,160.95, +54.58%

♦Barcelona: $1,211.14, -16.41%

♦Madrid: $1,386.60, +22.01%

♦Istanbul: $1,186.19, +11.29%

♦St. Maarten, $589.85, -50.54%

♦London, $1,111.49, -3.07%

♦Los Angeles, $275.13, +4.44%

♦Anchorage, $651.69, +37.71%

♦Boston, $206.26, -20.73%

♦New York, $184.58, -24.74%

♦Mexico City, $397.44, -24.21%

For “summer leisure” travel between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Source: Kayak

Relief is in sight for travelers who shelved out big bucks this summer to fly: Air fares will drop up to 20 percent beginning in late August as kids head back to school.

Fuel costs, airline mergers and fewer flights were to blame for the spike in air fares this summer, as airlines targeted leisure travelers.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said last week that average domestic air fares rose to $373 for the first three months of this year. Not adjusted for inflation, that’s an all-time high. The previous highest air-fare average was last year: $370.

“In the five months of the year that you’re traveling during the time when kids are out of school and family travel is abundant, you should expect to pay a premium because airlines are in demand,” BestFares CEO Tom Parsons said.

“They have to stick it to the customer who is the leisure traveler,” he said.

But wait for that family travel season to end, and you’ll see some great deals, Parsons said.

July air fares from Chicago to the Caribbean already have dropped dramatically, and air fare to Europe beginning in late August for travel in September and October should range from $400 to $700 roundtrip.

“If you don’t travel with your family or you don’t have kids, I don’t see any reason why anybody should fly during the peak season,” Parsons said. “You wait ’til September or October, you’ll even get better deals with hotel companies, and you’ll see airlines and hotels begging for your business.”