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 BTSBased 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 2020Source: 

Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Origin and Destination Survey

Inflation-Adjusted Air FaresFirst 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.

 Unadjusted Air Fares  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 2015Compared to All Quarters: Down 16.4% from the highest fare for any quarter, $402 in 2Q 2014Start 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

  Figure 2. Fares by Airport Group based on Number of Originating Domestic Passengers 1Q 2020

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

Fares by airport group: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.

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