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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

First Quarter 2020 Air Fare Drops to New Low

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
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, 1Q 2020

Figure 1. U.S. Average Domestic Fares, 1st Quarter 1995-2020 1
Unadjusted Fares (current dollars) Inflation-Adjusted (2020$) 2
1995 297 508 3
1996 284 473 4
1997 283 459 5
1998 305 486 6
1999 332 520 7
2000 340 517 8
2001 348 511 9
2002 320 465 10
2003 319 450 11
2004 320 444 12
2005 301 406 13
2006 323 420 14
2007 318 403 15
2008 333 406 16
2009 314 382 17
2010 328 390 18
2011 356 414 19
2012 373 422 20
2013 378 422 21
2014 387 426 22
2015 390 429 23
2016 359 391 24
2017 349 371 25
2018 346 360 26
2019 350 358 27
2020 336 336 28
29
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

 

 

 

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.