U.S. Air Travel Trends

Average U.S. Domestic Air Fare Decreased to $372 in the Third Quarter of 2015, Down 6.2 Percent

The average domestic air fare decreased to $372 in the third quarter of 2015, down 6.2 percent from $396 in the third quarter of 2014, falling to the lowest level since 2010, adjusted for inflation, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported yesterday.

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The average domestic air fare decreased to $372 in the third quarter of 2015, down 6.2 percent from $396 in the third quarter of 2014, falling to the lowest level since 2010, adjusted for inflation, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported yesterday.

U.S. Average Domestic Fares, 3rd Quarter 1995-2015

Graph - U.S. Average Domestic Fares, 3rd Quarter 1995-2015

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

BTS reports average fares based on domestic itinerary fares. Itinerary fares consist of round-trip fares, unless the customer does not purchase a return trip. In that case, the one-way fare is included. One-way trips accounted for 34 percent of fares calculated for the third quarter of 2015. Fares are based on the total ticket value, which consists of the price charged by the airlines plus any additional taxes and fees levied by an outside entity at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at the time of the ticket purchase and do not include fees for optional services, such as baggage fees. Averages do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares,” or abnormally high reported fares. Constant 2015 dollars are used for inflation adjustment.

Inflation-Adjusted Air Fares

Third-quarter fares rose 11.9 percent from the recession-affected low of $338 in 2009 to the third quarter of 2011. Since 2011, third-quarter fares have shown little change, decreasing 1.7 percent from 2011 to 2015 (Table 1).

The third-quarter 2015 fare was down 19.4 percent from the average fare of $461 in 2000, the highest inflation-adjusted third quarter average fare in the 20 years since BTS began collecting air fare records in 1995. The 19.4 percent decline took place while overall consumer prices rose 37.0 percent. Since 1995, inflation-adjusted fares declined 16.8 percent compared to a 55.3 percent increase in overall consumer prices (Table 2). See BTS Air Fare web page for historical data.

U.S. passenger airlines collected 75.0 percent of their total revenue from passenger fares during the third quarter of 2015, down from 87.6 percent in 1995 (Table 1A).

Quarter-to-Quarter Change

Third-quarter fares were down 3.5 percent from the second quarter of 2015, dropping to the lowest inflation-adjusted level since the fourth quarter of 2010 when the average fare was $363. See quarterly fare data

In the three-year period from the third quarter of 2012 to the third quarter of 2015, inflation-adjusted fares decreased 1.5 percent. In the two-year period from the third quarter of 2013 to the third quarter of 2015, inflation-adjusted fares decreased 6.2 percent (Table 3).

Unadjusted Air Fares

The $372 third-quarter 2015 average fare was down 6.2 percent from the third-quarter 2014 fare of $396, which was the highest average fare for any quarter since 1995. Since 1995, unadjusted fares rose 29.3 percent (Table 4). Third-quarter fares were down 3.5 percent from the second quarter of 2015, dropping to the lowest unadjusted level since the third quarter of 2012 when the average fare was $367 (Table 5).

Fares by Airport Group based on Originating Domestic Passengers 3Q 2015

Graph - Fares by Airport Group based on Originating Domestic Passengers 3Q 2015

Grouped by the number of originating passengers in the third quarter of 2015, the 12 airports with more than 5 million originating passengers had the highest average fares ($380). Airports with 4 to 5 million originating passengers had the lowest average fares of any group ($339) (Table 6).

Tables listing the airports by group can be found on the BTS Air Fare web page.

For additional data, see Top 100 Airports or All Airports. Since average fares are based on the Origin and Destination Survey 10 percent ticket sample, averages for airports with smaller samples may be less reliable. Fares for Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico airports are not included in rankings but are available on the web page. Fourth-quarter 2015 average fare data will be released April 26.

 

Table 1. 3rd Quarter Average Fare 1995-2015, Adjusted for Inflation

YearAverage Fare in constant 2015 dollars ($)Year-to-Year Percent Change in Average Fare (3Q to 3Q) (%)Cumulative Percent Change in Average Fare (3Q 1995 to 3Q of each year) (%)
1995 447    
1996 406 -9.0 -9.0
1997 417 2.5 -6.7
1998 459 10.0 2.7
1999 450 -2.0 0.7
2000 461 2.6 3.3
2001 404 -12.3 -9.4
2002 399 -1.4 -10.7
2003 401 0.7 -10.1
2004 372 -7.4 -16.8
2005 366 -1.5 -18.0
2006 387 5.7 -13.3
2007 374 -3.4 -16.3
2008 390 4.4 -12.6
2009 338 -13.4 -24.3
2010 370 9.4 -17.1
2011 378 2.2 -15.3
2012 377 -0.3 -15.5
2013 396 5.0 -11.2
2014 396 0.0 -11.3
2015 372 -6.2 -16.8

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares; and http://www.transtats.bts.gov/databases.asp?Mode_ID=1&Mode_Desc=Aviation&Subject_ID2=0

Note: Percent change based on unrounded numbers

 

Table 1A. Passenger Airline Revenue from Fares 1990-2015

YearRevenue from Passenger Fares as Percent of Total Scheduled Passenger Airline Operating Revenue* (%)
1990 88.5
1995 87.6
2000 88.9
2001 87.8
2002 87.1
2003 84.9
2004 80.6
2005 78.4
2006 77.6
2007 77.7
2008 75.9
2009 73.7
2010 74.8
2011 74.6
2012 74.1
2013 74.6
2014 74.8
2015 (1Q) 74.6
2015 (2Q) 75.7
2015 (3Q) 75.0

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, P-12

* From Schedule P-12: Passenger Revenue (Fares) (Acct 3901) as a percentage of Total Operating Revenues (4999).

 

Table 2. Percent Changes to 2015 in Average Domestic Average Fares and the Inflation Rate* by Year Since 1995

(3rd Quarter to 3rd Quarter for fares; September to September for inflation)

Since 3rd Quarter of ...Duration in YearsAverage Fare in constant 2015 dollars ($)Percent Change in Average Fare to 3rd Quarter 2015 (%)Inflation Rate Change to Sept 2015
2015   372    
2014 1 396 -6.2 0.0
2013 2 396 -6.2 1.6
2012 3 377 -1.5 2.8
2011 4 378 -1.7 4.9
2010 5 370 0.5 8.9
2009 6 338 9.9 10.2
2008 7 390 -4.8 8.8
2007 8 374 -0.6 14.1
2006 9 387 -4.0 17.3
2005 10 366 1.5 19.7
2004 11 372 0.0 25.3
2003 12 401 -7.4 28.5
2002 13 399 -6.8 31.5
2001 14 404 -8.1 33.5
2000 15 461 -19.4 37.0
1999 16 450 -17.3 41.7
1998 17 459 -18.9 45.4
1997 18 417 -10.8 47.6
1996 19 406 -8.5 50.8
1995 20 447 -16.8 55.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares; and http://www.transtats.bts.gov/databases.asp?Mode_ID=1&Mode_Desc=Aviation&Subject_ID2=0

* Rate calculated using Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index

 

Table 3. Inflation-Adjusted Average Domestic Airline Fares by Quarter

Average Fare and Percent Change by Quarter

Quarter/YearAverage Domestic Fare (2015$)
Average Fare in constant 2015 dollars ($)Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
4Q 2011 388 2.7
1Q 2012 387 -0.4
2Q 2012 399 3.1
3Q 2012 377 -5.4
4Q 2012 388 2.8
1Q 2013 386 -0.4
2Q 2013 385 -0.3
3Q 2013 396 2.9
4Q 2013 390 -1.6
1Q 2014 385 -1.3
2Q 2014 395 2.6
3Q 2014 396 0.3
4Q 2014* 398 0.4
1Q 2015* 391 -1.7
2Q 2015* 385 -1.7
3Q 2015* 372 -3.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares; and http://www.transtats.bts.gov/databases.asp?Mode_ID=1&Mode_Desc=Aviation&Subject_ID2=0

Note: Percent change based on unrounded numbers

* Fares for the most recent four quarters are in current dollars, not adjusted for inflation.

 

Table 4. Unadjusted 3rd Quarter Average Fares, 1995-2015

YearAverage Fare in current dollars ($)Year-to-Year Percent Change in Average Fare (3Q to 3Q) (%)Cumulative Percent Change in Average Fare (3Q 1995 to 3Q of each year) (%)
1995 288    
1996 269 -6.3 -6.3
1997 282 4.7 -1.8
1998 315 11.7 9.6
1999 317 0.6 10.3
2000 337 6.1 17.1
2001 303 -10.0 5.4
2002 303 0.1 5.5
2003 312 3.0 8.7
2004 297 -5.1 3.1
2005 306 3.2 6.4
2006 330 7.9 14.8
2007 328 -0.8 13.9
2008 359 9.6 24.8
2009 307 -14.5 6.8
2010 340 10.7 18.2
2011 361 6.2 25.5
2012 367 1.7 27.6
2013 390 6.3 35.7
2014 396 1.6 37.9
2015 372 -6.2 29.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares; and http://www.transtats.bts.gov/databases.asp?Mode_ID=1&Mode_Desc=Aviation&Subject_ID2=0

Note: Percent change based on unrounded numbers

 

Table 5. Unadjusted Average Domestic Airline Fares by Quarter

Average Fare and Percent Change by Quarter

Quarter/YearAverage Domestic Fare (current$)
Average Fare in current dollars ($)Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
3Q 2012 367 -4.6
4Q 2012 374 2.0
1Q 2013 378 1.0
2Q 2013 378 0.0
3Q 2013 390 3.2
4Q 2013 382 -2.0
1Q 2014 382 0.0
2Q 2014 396 3.5
3Q 2014 396 0.2
4Q 2014 393 -0.9
1Q 2015 388 -1.1
2Q 2015 385 -0.8
3Q 2015 372 -3.5

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares; and http://www.transtats.bts.gov/databases.asp?Mode_ID=1&Mode_Desc=Aviation&Subject_ID2=0

Note: Percent change based on unrounded numbers

 

Table 6. Fares at Airports Grouped by Originating Passengers

Top 100 Airports* Based on 3Q2015 U.S. Originating Domestic Passengers

Airport Groups based on 3Q 2015 Originating PassengersAverage Fare 3rd Quarter 2015 ($)Percent of Total Passengers
5 million+ 380 34
4-5 million 339 22
3-4 million 352 17
2-3 million 375 12
1-2 million 375 12
less than 1 million 376 3
Average Fare at All Airports 372 100

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/airfares; and http://www.transtats.bts.gov/databases.asp?Mode_ID=1&Mode_Desc=Aviation&Subject_ID2=0

* Not including Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico



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