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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

2021 Annual Average Domestic Air Fares Remain Stable

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

BTS 16-22

Fourth Quarter 2021 Fares Increase 2.6%, Adjusted for Inflation, from Previous Quarter

The 2021 annual average domestic itinerary air fare of $307, remained relatively stable from the 2020 inflation-adjusted annual fare of $306, which was the lowest annual average fare since the Bureau of Transportation Statistics began collecting such records in 1995. The 2021 annual fare was down 17.8% from 2019, the last full pre-pandemic calendar year.

 

In 2021, 243.8 million originating passengers traveled on U.S. airlines, up from 130.8 million in 2020 and down from 331.3 million in 2019.

 

Annual Air Fares

Inflation-adjusted
Annual 2021 fare: $307
From previous year: Up 0.3% from 2020 ($306)
From pre-pandemic year: Down 17.8% from 2019 ($373) 
All years: Down 42.5% from the highest fare for any year, $533 in 2000
Start of BTS records in 1995: Down 40.9% from 1995 ($520)
Recent high: Down 22.1% from 2016 ($394)

 

Unadjusted
Annual 2021 fare: $307
From previous year: Up 5.0% from 2020 ($292)
From pre-pandemic year:  Down 13.5% from 2019 ($355)
All years: Down 21.6% from the highest fare for any year, $392 in 2014
Start of BTS records in 1995: Up 5.1% ($292) (compared to 77.8% consumer price index increase)
Recent low: Up 5.0% from 2020 ($292)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fare calculations by BTS
Itinerary Fares:
Round-trips but include one-ways if no return is purchased.
Breakout of trip types: one-way, 40.5% ($226); round-trip: 59.5%, ($372).

 

Based on a random sample of 10% of tickets.
Total ticket value: The price charged by airlines at time of ticket purchase.
Included: Additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at time of ticket purchase.
Not included: Fees for optional services, such as baggage fees.

 

 

The average U.S. domestic air fare in the fourth quarter of 2021 was $327, increasing 2.6% from an inflation-adjusted third quarter 2021 fare of $319. The number of passengers decreased slightly from 73.9 million originating passengers in the third quarter of 2021 quarter to 73.8 million passengers in the fourth quarter but increased year over year from 31.6 million passengers in the fourth quarter of 2020.  The number of passengers in the fourth quarter of 2021 is less than the 84.0 million passengers in the pre-pandemic fourth quarter of 2019.

 

Adjusted for inflation (constant 2021 dollars) the average 4Q 2021 air fare was:

  • Up 17.6% from 4Q 2020 ($278)
  • Up 2.6% from 3Q 2021 ($319)
  • Down 18.0% from 4Q 2016 ($399)

 

 

Itinerary Fares: Round-trips, but includes one-way tickets if no return is purchased.
Breakout of trip types: one-way, 38% ($236); round-trip, 62% ($398).

 

Inflation-Adjusted Average Air Fares  
Fourth Quarter 2021 fare: $327
Compared to all fourth quarters: Down 39.7% from the highest 4Q fare, $543 in 2000.
Compared to all quarters: Down 41.6% from the highest fare for any quarter, $560 in 1Q 1999.
From corresponding pre-pandemic quarter:  Down 15.0% from 4Q 2019 ($385).
Start of BTS records in 1Q 1995: Down 40.2% ($547).
Recent high: Down 22.2% from 1Q 2016 ($421). 
Recent low:  Up 25.0% from 3Q 2020 ($262).
All-time low: Up 25.0% from the previous low 3Q 2020 ($262).
All-time fourth-quarter low: Up 17.6% from the previous low 4Q 2020 ($278).

 

Unadjusted Average Air Fares  
Fourth Quarter 2021 fare: $327
Trend: Up 4.2% from 3Q 2021 ($314)
Compared to all fourth quarters: Down 17.3% from the highest 4Q fare, $395 in 2014
Compared to all quarters: Down 18.7% from the highest fare for any quarter, $402 in 2Q 2014
From pre-pandemic quarter:  Down 8.2% from 4Q 2019
Start of BTS records in 1Q 1995: Up 10.2% ($297) (compared to 80.8% consumer price index increase)
Recent low: Up 33.7% from 3Q 2020 ($245)
Recent high: Down 9.0% from 1Q 2016 ($359)
All-time low: Up 33.7% from 3Q 2020 ($245)
All-time fourth-quarter low: Up 25.5% from 4Q 2020 ($261).

 

Fares by Airport Group

Highest: 7 airports with 1.5-1.99 million originating passengers ($335).
Lowest: 3 airports with 50,000-99,999 originating passengers ($265).

 

 

Additional data: see Top 100 Airports or All Airports. First Quarter 2022 average fare data will be released July 19. 

 

Standard error: Results for average fares are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10% sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. Averages for airports with smaller samples may be less reliable. For Q4 2021 results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.28 and the median fare is $259.04. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $326.68 to $327.59.  For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is .38 and the median fare is $328.76. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $397.07 to $398.32.  For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is .33 and the median fare is $185.62. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $235.27 to $236.34.