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4th-Quarter 2016 Air Fare Data

Press Release Number: 
BTS 21_17
Date: 
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Media Contact: 
Dave Smallen, 202-366-5568

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The average domestic air fare decreased to $347 in the fourth quarter of 2016, down 6.1 percent from $369 in the fourth quarter of 2015, adjusted for inflation (Table 1), the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today.  

Figure 1. U.S. Average Domestic Fares, 4th Quarter 1995-2016

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Figure 1. U.S. Average Domestic Fares, 4th Quarter 1995-2016

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, BTS Air Fares, Origin 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 36 percent of fares calculated for the fourth quarter of 2016. The average unadjusted domestic one-way air fare was $241 in the fourth quarter of 2016, while the average unadjusted round-trip air fare was $422. 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.”  Constant 2016 dollars are used for inflation adjustment.

Inflation-Adjusted Air Fares
Fourth-quarter fares were the lowest fourth-quarter fares since BTS began reporting fares in 1995, down 3.0 percent from the previous low of $357 in 2009 (Table 1). They were the lowest for any quarter since $344 in the third quarter of 2009.

The fourth-quarter 2016 fare was down 26.5 percent from the average fare of $472 in 2000, the highest inflation-adjusted fourth quarter average fare recorded in the 21 years since BTS began collecting air fare records in 1995. Since 1995, inflation-adjusted fares declined 23.4 percent (Table 2). See BTS Air Fare web page for historic data.

In recent years, airlines have obtained additional revenue from fees charged to passengers, as well as from other sources. U.S. passenger airlines collected 74.7 percent of their total revenue from passenger fares during the third quarter of 2016, down from 87.6 percent in 1995. Third-quarter data are the most recent available (Table 1A).

Quarter-to-Quarter Change
The fourth-quarter 2016 average fare of $347 was down 13.7 percent from the recent peak of $402 in the fourth quarter of 2014 (Table 3).

Annual Fares
The average 2016 inflation-adjusted fare of $349 was down 8.5 percent from $382 in 2015. The 2016 average was the lowest since 2009 and was down 26.1 percent from the all-time annual high of $472 in 2000.  Unadjusted, the 2016 average fare of $349 was up 12.5 percent from the post-recession low of $310 in 2009 but down 10.9 percent from the recent peak of $392 in 2014.  See Annual Fares

Unadjusted Air Fares
The $347 fourth-quarter 2016 average fare was down 12.5 percent from the third quarter 2014 fare of $396, which was the highest unadjusted average fare for any quarter since 1995. Since 1995, unadjusted fares rose 20.5 percent compared to a 57.2 percent increase in overall consumer prices (Table 4).

Fourth-quarter 2016 fares were up slightly, 0.8 percent, from the third-quarter 2016, the first quarter-to-quarter increase since the third-quarter of 2014. From that quarter until the third quarter of 2016, fares declined by 13.2 percent (Table 5). See Air Fares for historical data.

Fares by Airport

Figure 2. Fares by Airport Group based on Number of Originating Domestic Passengers 4Q 2016

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Figure 2. Fares by Airport Group based on Number of Originating Domestic Passengers 4Q 2016

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

Of airports grouped by the number of originating passengers in the fourth quarter of 2016, the 6 airports with between 50,000 and 99,999 originating passengers had the highest average fares ($400). Airports with 1.0 to 1.49 million originating passengers had the lowest average fares of any group ($329) (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. First-quarter 2017 average fare data will be released July 25.

Note: Results for average fares are based on the BTS Origin & Destination Survey, a 10 percent sample of airline tickets used during the quarter. For results based on all itinerary fares, the standard error is 0.30. The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $346.22 to $347.21. For results based on round-trip fares, the standard error is 0.37.  The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $421.79 to $423.00. For results based on one-way fares, the standard error is 0.37. The 90 percent confidence interval ranges from $240.27 to $241.47.

 

Table 1. 4th Quarter Average Fare 1995-2016, Adjusted for Inflation

Year Average Fare in constant 2016 dollars ($) Year-to-Year Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q to 4Q) (%) Cumulative Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q 1995 to 4Q of each year) (%)
1995 452    
1996 424 -6.3 -6.3
1997 439 3.5 -3.0
1998 466 6.1 2.9
1999 456 -2.0 0.8
2000 472 3.4 4.3
2001 408 -13.4 -9.7
2002 412 0.8 -9.0
2003 413 0.3 -8.7
2004 376 -8.9 -16.8
2005 384 2.1 -15.1
2006 381 -0.8 -15.8
2007 380 -0.3 -16.1
2008 392 3.1 -13.5
2009 357 -8.7 -21.0
2010 369 3.4 -18.4
2011 393 6.5 -13.0
2012 392 -0.3 -13.3
2013 396 0.8 -12.6
2014 402 1.5 -11.2
2015 369 -8.1 -18.4
2016 347 -6.1 -23.4

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

 

Table 1A. Passenger Airline Revenue from Fares 1990-2016

Year Revenue 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 74.7
2016 (1Q) 73.7
2016 (2Q) 74.3
2016 (3Q) 74.7

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics, P-1.2

* From Schedule P-1.2: Passenger Revenue (Fares) (Acct 3901) as a percentage of Total Operating Revenues (4999).

 

Table 2. Percent Changes to 2016 in Average Domestic Average Fares by Year Since 1995

(4th Quarter to 4th Quarter for fares)

Since 4th Quarter of ... Duration in Years Average Fare in constant 2016 dollars ($) Percent Change in Average Fare to 4th Quarter 2016 (%)
2016   347  
2015 1 369 -6.1
2014 2 402 -13.7
2013 3 396 -12.4
2012 4 392 -11.6
2011 5 393 -11.9
2010 6 369 -6.1
2009 7 357 -3.0
2008 8 392 -11.4
2007 9 380 -8.7
2006 10 381 -9.0
2005 11 384 -9.8
2004 12 376 -7.9
2003 13 413 -16.1
2002 14 412 -15.8
2001 15 408 -15.1
2000 16 472 -26.5
1999 17 456 -24.0
1998 18 466 -25.5
1997 19 439 -21.0
1996 20 424 -18.2
1995 21 452 -23.4

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

* 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/Year Average Domestic Fare (2016$)
Average Fare in constant 2016 dollars ($) Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
4Q 2014 402 -0.1
1Q 2015 399 -0.6
2Q 2015 392 -1.9
3Q 2015 377 -3.9
4Q 2015* 363 -4.0
1Q 2016* 361 -0.4
2Q 2016* 351 -3.0
3Q 2016* 344 -1.9
4Q 2016* 347 0.8

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

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

 

Table 4. Unadjusted 4th Quarter Average Fares, 1995-2016

Year Average Fare in current dollars ($) Year-to-Year Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q to 4Q) (%) Cumulative Percent Change in Average Fare (4Q 1995 to 4Q of each year) (%) Inflation Rate from 1995 (Dec 1995 to Dec of each year)*
1995 288 N/A N/A N/A
1996 278 -3.3 -3.3 3.2
1997 294 5.5 2.0 5.1
1998 316 7.7 9.9 6.7
1999 318 0.6 10.5 9.5
2000 340 7.0 18.2 13.3
2001 300 -11.8 4.2 15.4
2002 309 3.0 7.3 17.9
2003 316 2.2 9.7 20.2
2004 297 -5.9 3.3 24.2
2005 315 5.9 9.4 28.8
2006 318 1.1 10.6 31.3
2007 330 3.6 14.6 36.5
2008 345 4.7 20.0 38.7
2009 320 -7.4 11.1 40.7
2010 335 4.7 16.3 42.5
2011 368 10.0 28.0 47.2
2012 374 1.6 30.0 50.0
2013 382 2.1 32.8 51.8
2014 393 2.8 36.4 53.7
2015 363 -7.7 26.0 54.4
2016 347 -4.4 20.5 57.2

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

* Rate calculated using Bureau of Labor Statistics General Consumer Price Index

 

Table 5. Unadjusted Average Domestic Airline Fares by Quarter

Average Fare and Percent Change by Quarter

Quarter/Year Average Domestic Fare (current$)
Average Fare in current dollars ($) Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
4Q 2014 393 -0.9
1Q 2015 388 -1.1
2Q 2015 386 -0.6
3Q 2015 372 -3.7
4Q 2015 363 -2.5
1Q 2016 361 -0.4
2Q 2016 351 -2.9
3Q 2016 344 -1.9
4Q 2016 347 0.8

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 6. Fares at Airports Grouped by Originating Passengers

Top 100 Airports* Based on 4Q2016 U.S. Originating Domestic Passengers

Airport Groups based on 4Q 2016 Originating Passengers Average Fare 4th Quarter 2016 ($) Percent of Total Passengers
2 million+ 344 22
1.5-1.99 million 344 18
1.0-1.49 million 329 21
500-999,000 342 23
100-499,000 348 15
50-99,999 400 1
Average Fare at All Airports 347 100

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