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Air Fares

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First Quarter 2020 Air Fare Drops to New Low

Release Number: 
BTS 48-20
Date: Tuesday, July 21, 2020

U.S. domestic average air fares declined in the first quarter of 2020 to $336, the lowest inflation-adjusted quarterly air fare on record in Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) records dating back to 1995. The previous low was $347 in the third quarter of 2019.

Adjusted for inflation, (constant 2020 dollars) the first-quarter 2020 air fare was:

  • Down 6.0% from 1Q 2019 ($358)
  • Down 6.1% from 4Q 2019 ($358)
  • Down 21.6% from 1Q 2015 ($429)

Percent change based on unrounded numbers. COVID-19 effects on numbers of passengers and flights did not begin until the latter part of the January-March reporting period.

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, BTS Air Fares, Origin and Destination Survey

 
Itinerary Fares: Average fares are calculated using round-trips and one-way tickets if no return is purchased.
Breakout of trip types: one-way, 39% ($245); round-trip, 61% ($403).
Fare calculations by BTS
Based on a random sample of up to 10% of the tickets.
Total ticket value: The price charged by airlines at time of ticket purchase.
Included: Additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at time of ticket purchase.
Not included: Fees for optional services, such as baggage fees.
Figure 1. U.S. Average Domestic Fares, 1st Quarter 1995-2020
Unadjusted Fares (current dollars)Inflation-Adjusted (2020$)
1995297508
1996284473
1997283459
1998305486
1999332520
2000340517
2001348511
2002320465
2003319450
2004320444
2005301406
2006323420
2007318403
2008333406
2009314382
2010328390
2011356414
2012373422
2013378422
2014387426
2015390429
2016359391
2017349371
2018346360
2019350358
2020336336
Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Origin and Destination Survey

First Quarter 2020 fare ($336):
Compared to All First Quarters: Down 35.4% from the highest 1Q fare, $521 in 1999.
Compared to All Quarters: Down 35.4% from the highest fare for any quarter, $521 in 1Q 1999.
Start of BTS records: Down 33.9% from 1Q 1995 ($508).
Five-year high: Down 21.6% from 1Q 2015 ($429). 
Five-year low:  Down 3.2% from 3Q 2019 ($347).
All-time low: Down 3.2% from the previous low 3Q 2019 ($347).
All-time first-quarter low:  Down 6.0% from the previous low 1Q 2019 ($358).

Other Revenue: In recent years, airlines increasingly obtain additional revenue from passenger fees, as well as from other sources. U.S. passenger airlines collected 71.3% of total operating revenue of $26.6 billion from passenger fares during the first three months of 2020, down from 88.5% in 1990.

 
First Quarter 2020 fare ($336):
Trend: Down 5.7% from 4Q 2019 ($357)
Compared to All First Quarters: Down 13.8% from the highest 1Q fare, $390 in 2015
Compared to All Quarters: Down 16.4% from the highest fare for any quarter, $402 in 2Q 2014
Start of BTS records: Up 13.2% from 1Q 1995 ($297) (compared to 71.2% consumer price increase)
Five-year low: Up 0.1% from 3Q 2017 ($336)
Five-year high: Down 13.8% from 1Q 2015 ($390)
All-time low: Up 24.7% from 3Q 1996 ($270)
All-time first-quarter low: Up 18.6% from 1Q 1997 ($283).
 
 

Fares by Airport

 
Originating Domestic Passengers1Q Fares (current dollars)
2M+$328
1.5M-2M$332
1M-1.5M$332
500K-1M$326
100K-500K$346
50K-99K$365
Top 100 Airports$334
All Airports$336

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, BTS Air Fares, Origin and Destination Survey

Highest: 14 airports with 50,000-99,999 originating passengers ($365)
Lowest: 21 airports with 500,000-999,999 originating passengers ($326)

Additional data: see Top 100 Airports or All Airports. Second Quarter 2020 average fare data will be released Oct. 20. 

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.

Note: Results for average fares (actual and inflation-adjusted) are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10% sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. For Q1 2020 results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.32 and the median fare is $274.36. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $335.60 to $336.65. For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is 0.43 and the median fare is $343.62. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $402.67 to $404.07. For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is 0.39 and the median fare is $187.85. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $244.28 to $245.58.  

Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2020