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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Second Quarter 2020 Air Fare Drops to New Low as Passenger Numbers Decline

Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Date: Tuesday, October 26, 2020
 

U.S. domestic air fares declined in the second quarter of 2020 to $259, the lowest inflation-adjusted quarterly air fare in Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) records dating back to 1995. The previous low was $334 in the first quarter of 2020. 

Adjusted for inflation (constant 2020 dollars) the 2Q 2020 air fare was:

  • Down 27.8% from 2Q 2019 ($358)
  • Down 22.6% from 1Q 2020 ($334)
  • Down 38.4% from 2Q 2015 ($420)

Air fares declined along with passenger demand. Airlines reported 11.5 million originating passengers in the second quarter of 2020, down from 87.2 million passengers a year earlier.

The percent change is based on unrounded numbers.  COVID-19 effects on travel were significant in the April-June reporting period.

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

 

 

Itinerary Fares: Round-trips, but includes one-way tickets if no return is purchased.
Breakout of trip types: one-way, 53% ($221); round-trip, 47% ($311).
 
Fare calculations by BTS
*Based on a random sample of approximately 10% of tickets sold.
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, 2nd Quarter 1995-2020

Unadjusted Fares (current dollars) Inflation-Adjusted (2020$) 1
1995 297 501 2
1996 276 453 3
1997 289 464 4
1998 301 475 5
1999 329 509 6
2000 339 507 7
2001 329 476 8
2002 318 454 9
2003 315 440 10
2004 309 421 11
2005 307 405 12
2006 342 434 13
2007 325 402 14
2008 347 411 15
2009 302 362 16
2010 341 401 17
2011 370 421 18
2012 385 430 19
2013 378 417 20
2014 402 434 21
2015 389 420 22
2016 352 376 23
2017 356 374 24
2018 349 357 25
2019 357 358 26
2020 259 259 27
28
Source:

Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Origin and Destination Survey

Inflation-Adjusted Air Fares  
Second Quarter 2020 fare ($259):
Compared to All Second Quarters: Down 49.1% from the highest 2Q fare, $509 in 1999.
Compared to All Quarters: Down 50.0% from the highest fare for any quarter, $518 in 1Q 1999.
Start of BTS records: Down 48.8% from 1Q 1995 ($505).
Recent high: Down 39.3% from 1Q 2015 ($427). 
Recent low:  Down 22.6% from 1Q 2020 ($334).
All-time low: Down 22.6% from the previous low 1Q 2020 ($334).
All-time second-quarter low: Down 27.4% from the previous low 2Q 2018 ($357).

 

 

Other Revenue: In recent years, airlines have increasingly obtained additional revenue from passenger fees, as well as from other sources. U.S. passenger airlines collected 67.6% of total operating revenue of $30.5 billion from passenger fares during the first six months of 2020, down from 88.5% in 1990.

 

Unadjusted Air Fares  
Second Quarter 2020 fare ($259):
Trend: Down 23.0% from 1Q 2020 ($336)
Compared to All Second Quarters: Down 35.6% from the highest 2Q fare, $402 in 2014
Compared to All Quarters: Down 35.6% from the highest fare for any quarter, $402 in 2Q 2014
Start of BTS records: Down 12.8% from 1Q 1995 ($297) (compared to 68.8% consumer price increase)
Recent low: Down 22.9% from 3Q 2017 ($336)
Recent high: Down 33.6% from 1Q 2015 ($390)
All-time low: Down 3.9% from 3Q 1996 ($269)
All-time second-quarter low: Down 6.1% from 2Q 1996 ($276).

 

 

 

Fares by Airport

 

Highest: 39 airports with 100,000-499,999 originating passengers ($259)
Lowest: 44 airports with 16,000-49,999 originating passengers ($249)

 

Additional data: see Top 100 Airports or All Airports. Third Quarter 2020 average fare data will be released Jan. 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.

 

Note: Results for average fares are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10% sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. For Q2 2020 results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.39 and the median fare is $207.64. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $258.24 to $259.51.  For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is 0.61 and the median fare is $256.87. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $309.69 to $311.71. For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is 0.45 and the median fare is $182.06. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $219.55 to $221.01.