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Consumer Confidential: Holiday travel, higher airfares, Acura redux

December 14, 2011 |  9:54 am

Here's your watching-the-detectives Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

— Downturn, shmownturn. Despite continued worries about the economy, more Americans are expected to hit the highway this holiday season. AAA says it expects 91.9 million Americans — about 30% of the population — to travel at least 50 miles from home during the 11-day, year-end holiday season. That's up 1.4% from a year ago, making it the second-highest travel volume in the past 10 years. The majority (about 91%) of travelers are expected to venture forth by automobile, a 2.1% increase from a year ago. That comes in the face of high prices at the pump, with gas prices 29 cents higher than a year ago. On the other hand, air travel is expected to decline slightly. (CNN Money)

— And there's a reason for that. If you thought it was more expensive to fly this year, you're right. Average domestic airfares rose to $370 in the second quarter of 2011,up 8.5% from the average fare of $341 in the second quarter of 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Second-quarter fares increased 3.9% from the first quarter, the second consecutive quarterly increase. And total prices may be even higher than government says. Fares in the study include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include other charges such as baggage fees, paid at the airport or on board the aircraft. (

— Honda's Acura brand isn't so ritzy after all. The carmaker had always hoped its Acura line could emulate Toyota and Nissan, which successfully propelled the Lexus and Infiniti brands, respectively, into the rarefied luxury-car tier alongside Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Cadillac. It never quite happened, and Honda now says it will try to reposition Acura as a mid-range, fuel-efficient brand. Over the next few years, Acura will introduce a new compact sedan, the ILX, built on Honda's global Civic platform, replacing the TSX. A redesigned RL flagship is expected by next fall, followed by a redesigned mid-sized TL sedan in the spring of 2013. (

— David Lazarus

Photo: Despite economic hard times, more people are expected to hit the road this holiday season. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times