The Atlantic 's Derek Thompson has found an economic story that [almost] everyone can celebrate: the price of flying. Airline tickets cost half what they did just thirty years ago: This is a case, Thompson argues, of deregulation working. And when the Internet became accessible to the common consumer, buyers gained a lot of leverage on prices. And yet, we still think of flying as expensive. Thompson: When US Airways and American Airlines announced their mega-merger this year, it set off national hysterics, as flyers claimed the new behemoth would painfully raise prices. The reaction seemed unaware that consumers have enjoyed an amazing (and unsustainable) three decades in cheap flying while the price of fuel, which accounts for more than a third of airfare costs, has gone up 260 percent since the turn of the century. Between falling prices, 9/11, and fuel inflation, there have been 47 airline bankruptcies since 2001. Some companies died. Others merged. Others survived with leaner contracts. Through attrition and consolidation, a less crowded marketplace for flying is inevitable. Why don't we appreciate this heyday in bargain flying? The first, and obvious, answer is that flying through the air in a big machine powered by a scarce resource will always cost a big number, and your average family expends very little energy adjusting big numbers for inflation. If you buy a round-trip ticket from New York to Columbus for $280 every year between 1986 and 2010, would you suddenly realize, after 24 years, that the real price of your ticket had dropped by exactly 50 percent? Probably not. You'd probably think, correctly, "I guess flying to Ohio costs $280." The second, and less obvious, reason why we don't recognize the amazing fall in ticket prices is that average consumers don't know what a plane ticket "should" cost. Some prices, we know, as if by heart. Parents know the price of socks, teenagers know the price of Cheetos, and college kids know the price of PBR. These numbers hardly change. Their constancy anchors an expectation. But quick, what's *the price* of flying to Los Angeles? You have no idea. It could be $300 or $700, depending on the route, the time of day, the number of seats left, the number of days notice, and so on. Read How Airline Ticket Prices Fell 50% in 30 Years (and Why Nobody Noticed) here .