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Air Fares

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

Release Number: 
BTS 73-20
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.
 
Unadjusted Fares (current dollars)Inflation-Adjusted (2020$)
1995297501
1996276453
1997289464
1998301475
1999329509
2000339507
2001329476
2002318454
2003315440
2004309421
2005307405
2006342434
2007325402
2008347411
2009302362
2010341401
2011370421
2012385430
2013378417
2014402434
2015389420
2016352376
2017356374
2018349357
2019357358
2020259259
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.  

Updated: Wednesday, October 28, 2020