Air Fares

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4th-Quarter 2017 Air Fare Data

Release Number: 
BTS 20-18

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The average domestic air fare rose to $347 in the fourth quarter of 2017, rising 3.0 percent from $337 in the third quarter of 2016, which was the lowest inflation-adjusted quarterly average fare in 23 years of air fare records (Table 1), the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today.

Unadjusted 4Q Fares (current dollars)Inflation-Adjusted 4Q Fares (2017 $)
1995288462
1996278433
1997294448
1998316476
1999318466
2000340482
2001300417
2002309420
2003316422
2004297384
2005315392
2006318389
2007330388
2008345400
2009320365
2010335377
2011368402
2012374401
2013382404
2014393410
2015363377
2016347354
2017347347
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Origin and Destination Survey

BTS reports average fares based on domestic itinerary fares. Itinerary fares consist of round-trip fares, unless the customer does not purchase a return trip. In that case, the one-way fare is included. One-way trips accounted for 37 percent of fares calculated for the fourth quarter of 2017. The average domestic one-way air fare was $247 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while the average round-trip air fare was $417. Fares are based on the total ticket value, which consists of the price charged by the airlines plus any additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include fees for optional services, such as baggage fees. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares.” Constant 2017 dollars are used for inflation adjustment.

Inflation-Adjusted Air Fares

The fourth-quarter fare of $347 was down 1.9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016, adjusted for inflation and up 3.0 percent from the third quarter of 2017. The fourth-quarter 2017 fare was down 27.9 percent from the average fare of $482 in 2000, the highest inflation-adjusted fourth quarter average fare on record. Since 1995, inflation-adjusted fares declined 24.8 percent (Table 1). See BTS Air Fare web page for historical data.

In recent years, airlines have obtained additional revenue from fees charged to passengers, as well as from other sources. U.S. passenger airlines collected 74.7 percent of their total revenue from passenger fares during the first three quarters of 2017, the most recent numbers available, down from 87.6 percent in 1995 (Figure 1, Table 2).

Quarter-to-Quarter Change

Average fares increased 3.0 percent from $337 in the third quarter of 2017 to $347 in the fourth quarter of 2017. Average fares rose slightly in each quarter from the third quarter of 2016 until the second quarter of 2017 before dropping 6.0 percent in the third quarter. Fares then increased by 3.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 (Table 3).

Annual Fares

The average 2017 inflation-adjusted fare of $348 was down 2.5 percent from $357 in 2016. The 2017 average was the lowest annual inflation-adjusted fare in 23 years of BTS records and was down 28.0 percent from the all-time annual high of $483 in 2000.  Unadjusted, the 2017 average fare of $348 was up 12.0 percent from the post-recession low of $310 in 2009 but down 11.3 percent from the recent peak of $392 in 2014. The unadjusted annual fare was down 0.4 percent from 2016. See Annual Fares.

Unadjusted Air Fares

The $347 fourth-quarter 2017 average fare was virtually unchanged from the fourth quarter 2016 fare. The fourth quarter 2017 fare was down 11.5 percent from the fare of $393 in the fourth quarter of 2014, which was the highest average fare for any fourth quarter since 1995. Since 1995, unadjusted fares rose 20.7 percent compared to a 60.6 percent increase in overall consumer prices (Table 4).

The fourth quarter 2017 average fare of $347 was virtually unchanged from the fourth quarter of 2016 but over two years, was down 4.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 ($363) (Table 5). See BTS Air Fare web page for historical data.

Fares by Airport

Originating Domestic Passengers4Q Fares (current dollars)
2M+343
1.5M-2M346
1M-1.5M330
500K-1M336
100K-500K363
50K-100K384
Top 100 Airports343
All Airports347
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Origin and Destination Survey

Of airports grouped by the number of originating passengers in the fourth quarter of 2017, the six airports with between 50,000 and 99,999 originating passengers had the highest average fares ($384). The eleven airports with 1.0 to 1.49 million originating passengers had the lowest average fares of any group ($330) (Table 6).

Tables listing the airports by group can be found on the BTS Air Fare web page.

For additional data, see Top 100 Airports or All Airports. Since average fares are based on the Origin and Destination Survey 10 percent ticket sample, averages for airports with smaller samples may be less reliable. Fares for Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico airports are not included in rankings but are available on the web page. First Quarter 2018 average fare data will be released July 17.

Note: Results for average fares are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10 percent sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. For results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.29. The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $335.35 to $336.30. For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is 0.36. The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $409.08 to $410.25. For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is 0.34. The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $240.91 to $242.04.

Note: Results for average fares are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10 percent sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. For results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.29.  The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $346.85 to $347.81. For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is 0.35. The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $416.40 to $417.56. For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is 0.38. The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $245.96 to $247.21.

Year4Q Average Fare in constant 2017 dollars ($)Year-to-Year Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q to 4Q) (%) Cumulative Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q 1995 to 4Q of each year) (%)Percent Change in Average Fare to 4th Quarter 2017 (%)
1995462-24.8
1996433-6.3-6.3-19.8
19974483.5-3.0-22.5
19984766.12.9-27.0
1999466-2.00.8-25.5
20004823.44.3-27.9
2001417-13.4-9.7-16.7
20024200.8-9.0-17.4
20034220.3-8.7-17.7
2004384-8.9-16.8-9.6
20053922.1-15.1-11.5
2006389-0.8-15.8-10.7
2007388-0.3-16.1-10.4
20084003.1-13.5-13.1
2009365-8.7-21.0-4.8
20103773.4-18.4-7.9
20114026.5-13.0-13.6
2012401-0.3-13.3-13.3
20134040.8-12.6-14.0
20144101.5-11.2-15.3
2015377-8.1-18.4-7.8
2016354-6.1-23.4-1.9
2017347-1.9-24.80.0
Notes: 

Percent change based on unrounded numbers

Source: 
YearRevenue from Passenger Fares as Percent of Total Scheduled Passenger Airline Operating Revenue* (%)
199088.5
199587.6
200088.9
200187.8
200287.1
200384.9
200480.6
200578.4
200677.6
200777.7
200875.9
200973.7
201074.8
201174.6
201274.1
201374.6
201474.8
201574.7
201674.1
2017 (thru Sept)74.7
Notes: 

* From Schedule P-1.2: Passenger Revenue (Fares) (Acct 39010) as a percentage of Total Operating Revenues (49990).

Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics, P-1.2

Quarter/YearAverage Domestic Fare (2017$)
Average Fare in constant 2017 dollars ($)Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
4Q 2015377-2.0
1Q 2016375-0.4
2Q 2016360-4.0
3Q 2016352-2.2
4Q 20163540.6
1Q 20173560.7
2Q 20173590.6
3Q 2017337-6.0
4Q 20173473.0
Notes: 
Percent change based on unrounded numbers
* Fares for the most recent four quarters are in current dollars, not adjusted for inflation.
Description: 
Quarter/YearAverage Domestic Fare (2017$)
Average Fare in constant 2017 dollars ($)Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
4Q 2015377-2.0
1Q 2016375-0.4
2Q 2016360-4.0
3Q 2016352-2.2
4Q 20163540.6
1Q 20173560.7
2Q 20173590.6
3Q 2017337-6.0
4Q 20173473.0
Source: 
YearAverage Fare in current dollars ($)Year-to-Year Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q to 4Q) (%) Cumulative Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q 1995 to 4Q of each year) (%)Inflation Rate from 1995 (Sep 1995 to Sep of each year)*
1995288N/AN/AN/A
1996278-3.3-3.33.2
19972945.52.05.1
19983167.79.96.7
19993180.610.59.5
20003407.018.213.3
2001300-11.84.215.4
20023093.07.317.9
20033162.29.720.2
2004297-5.93.324.2
20053155.99.428.8
20063181.110.631.3
20073303.614.636.5
20083454.720.038.7
2009320-7.411.140.7
20103354.716.342.5
201136810.028.047.2
20123741.630.050.0
20133822.132.851.8
20143932.836.453.7
2015363-7.726.054.4
2016347-4.420.557.2
20173470.220.760.6
Notes: 
Percent change based on unrounded numbers
* Rate calculated using Bureau of Labor Statistics General Consumer Price Index
Source: 
Average Fare and Percent Change by Quarter
Quarter/YearAverage Domestic Fare (current$)
Average Fare in current dollars ($)Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
4Q 2015363-2.5
1Q 2016361-0.4
2Q 2016351-2.9
3Q 2016344-1.9
4Q 20163470.8
1Q 20173521.5
2Q 20173561.2
3Q 2017336-5.6
4Q 20173473.4
Notes: 

Percent change based on unrounded numbers

Source: 
Top 100 Airports* Based on 4Q2017 U.S. Originating Domestic Passengers
Airport Groups based on 4Q 2017 Originating PassengersAverage Fare 4th Quarter 2017 ($)Percent of Total Passengers
2 million+34323
1.5-1.99 million34614
1.0-1.49 million33019
500-999,00033622
100-499,00036314
50-99,9993841
Average Fare at Top 100 Airports34393
Average Fare at All Airports347100
Notes: 

* Not including Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico

Source: 
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2018