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 Find the latest Coronavirus-related transportation statistics on the BTS COVID-19 landing page.

United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Release Number: BTS 07-21

The average U.S. domestic air fare declined in the third quarter of 2020 to $245, the lowest inflation-adjusted average quarterly air fare in Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) records dating back to 1995. The previous low was $262 in the second quarter of 2020. 

Adjusted for inflation (constant 2020 dollars) the average 3Q 2020 air fare was:

  • Down 29.9% from 3Q 2019 ($349)
  • Down 6.7% from 2Q 2020 ($262)
  • Down 40.0% from 3Q 2015 ($408)

Air fares declined along with passenger demand. U.S. airlines reported 27 million originating passengers in the third quarter of 2020, down from 86 million passengers a year earlier.

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

Itinerary Fares: Round-trips, but includes one-way tickets if no return is purchased.

Breakout of trip types: one-way, 45% ($202); round-trip, 55% ($285).

 

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.

Third Quarter 2020 fare ($245):
Compared to all third quarters: Down 51.5% from the highest 3Q fare, $505 in 2000.
Compared to all quarters: Down 53.2% from the highest fare for any quarter, $524 in 1Q 1999.
Start of BTS records: Down 52.1% from 1Q 1995 ($511).
Recent high: Down 43.3% from 1Q 2015 ($432). 
Recent low:  Down 6.7% from 2Q 2020 ($262).
All-time low: Down 6.7% from the previous low 2Q 2020 ($262).
All-time third-quarter low: Down 29.9% from the previous low 3Q 2019 ($349).

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 65.1% of total operating revenue of $38.6 billion from passenger fares during the first nine months of 2020, down from 88.5% in 1990.

Third Quarter 2020 fare ($245)
Trend: Down 5.8% from 2Q 2020 ($259)
Compared to all third quarters: Down 38.7% from the highest 3Q fare, $399 in 2014
Compared to all quarters: Down 39.1% from the highest fare for any quarter, $402 in 2Q 2014
Start of BTS records: Down 17.6% from 1Q 1995 ($297) (compared to 69.9% consumer price increase)
Recent low: Down 5.6% from 2Q 2020 ($259)
Recent high: Down 37.3% from 1Q 2015 ($390)
All-time low: Down 5.6% from 2Q 2020 ($259)
All-time third-quarter low: Down 9.1% from 3Q 1996 ($269).

Fares by Airport

Fares by airport group:

Highest: 18 airports with 38,000-49,999 originating passengers ($259)

Lowest: Nine airports with 500,000-999,999 originating passengers ($228)

Additional data: see Top 100 Airports or All Airports. Fourth Quarter 2020 average fare data will be released April 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 are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10% sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. For Q3 2020 results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.30 and the median fare is $197.44. 

The 90% confidence interval ranges from $244.29 to $245.28.  For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is 0.52 and the median fare is $236.70. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $283.03 to $284.73. For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is 0.34 and the median fare is $157.06. The 90% confidence interval ranges from $200.85 to $201.96.