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4th-Quarter 2015 Air Fare Data

Press Release Number: 
BTS 24-16
Date: 
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Media Contact: 
Dave Smallen, 202-366-5568

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The average domestic air fare decreased to $363 in the fourth quarter of 2015, down 8.3 percent from $396 in the fourth quarter of 2014, falling to the lowest level since 2010, 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 1995-2015

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Figure 1. U.S. Average Domestic Fares, 4th Quarter 1995-2015

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 33 percent of fares calculated for the fourth 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.” Constant 2015 dollars are used for inflation adjustment.

Inflation-Adjusted Air Fares
Fourth-quarter fares rose 10.2 percent from the recession-affected low of $350 in 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2011. From 2011 to 2014, fourth-quarter fares rose 2.4 percent before the 8.3 percent decline to 2015 (Figure 1, Table 1).

The fourth-quarter 2015 fare was down 14.4 percent from the average fare of $462 in 2000, the highest inflation-adjusted fourth quarter average fare in the 20 years since BTS began collecting air fare records in 1995. The 14.4 percent decline took place while overall consumer prices rose 34.9 percent. Since 1995, inflation-adjusted fares declined 10.8 percent (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). Third quarter 2015 is the most recent available data.

Annual Fares
The average fare of $377 for the full year 2015 was down 3.8 percent, inflation-adjusted, from the 2014 average fare of $392 but down 19.2 percent from the inflation-adjusted annual high of $467 in 2000. The 2015 annual fare was the lowest since $365 in 2010.

Quarter-to-Quarter Change  
Fourth-quarter fares were down 2.5 percent from the third quarter of 2015, dropping to the lowest inflation-adjusted level of any quarter since the fourth quarter of 2010 when the average fare was $361.

Following the post-recession fare increases, average fares were at least $383 in every quarter until dropping to $372 in the third quarter of 2015 and $363 in the fourth quarter (Table 3).

Unadjusted Air Fares
The $363 fourth-quarter 2015 average fare was down 7.7 percent from the fourth-quarter 2014 fare of $393, which was the highest average fare for any fourth quarter since 1995. Since 1995, unadjusted fares rose 26.0 percent compared to a 53.0 percent increase in overall consumer prices (Table 4). Fourth-quarter 2015 fares were down 2.5 percent from the third quarter of 2015, dropping to the lowest unadjusted level since the third quarter of 2012 when the average fare was $367 (Table 5). Fourth quarter 2015 fares were down 8.5 percent from the all-time unadjusted quarterly high of $396 in the third quarter of 2014.

Unadjusted Annual Fares
The average fare of $377 for the full year 2015 was down 3.7 percent from the 2014 average fare of $391 which was the adjusted annual high. The 2015 annual fare was the lowest since $375 in 2012.

Fares by Airport

Figure 2. Fares by Airport Group based on Originating Domestic Passengers 4Q 2015

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Figure 2. Fares by Airport Group based on Originating Domestic Passengers 4Q 2015

Grouped by the number of originating passengers in the fourth quarter of 2015, the 15 airports with more than 5 million originating passengers had the highest average fares ($365). Airports with 3 to 4 million originating passengers had the lowest average fares of any group ($319) (Figure 2, 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 2016 average fare data will be released July 26.

 

Table 1. 4th Quarter Average Fare 1995-2015, Adjusted for Inflation

Year Average Fare in constant 2015 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 443    
1996 415 -6.4 -6.4
1997 430 3.7 -2.9
1998 456 6.0 2.9
1999 447 -2.1 0.8
2000 462 3.5 4.3
2001 401 -13.2 -9.5
2002 404 0.6 -8.9
2003 405 0.4 -8.6
2004 369 -8.8 -16.7
2005 378 2.4 -14.7
2006 373 -1.4 -15.9
2007 371 -0.4 -16.3
2008 389 4.7 -12.4
2009 350 -9.9 -21.0
2010 361 3.1 -18.5
2011 386 6.9 -12.9
2012 386 -0.2 -13.1
2013 388 0.6 -12.6
2014 396 2.0 -10.8
2015 363 -8.3 -18.2

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

 

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

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 (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. Inflation-Adjusted Average Domestic Air Fares: Percent Changes to 2015 by Year since 1995

(4th Quarter to 4th Quarter for fares)

Since 4th Quarter of ... Duration in Years Average Fare in constant 2015 dollars ($) Percent Change in Average Fare to 4th Quarter 2015 (%)
2015   363  
2014 1 396 -8.3
2013 2 388 2.0
2012 3 386 2.6
2011 4 386 2.4
2010 5 361 9.5
2009 6 350 12.9
2008 7 389 1.8
2007 8 371 6.5
2006 9 373 6.1
2005 10 378 4.6
2004 11 369 7.0
2003 12 405 -2.4
2002 13 404 -2.1
2001 14 401 -1.4
2000 15 462 -14.4
1999 16 447 -11.5
1998 17 456 -13.3
1997 18 430 -8.1
1996 19 415 -4.7
1995 20 443 -10.8

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

 

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

Average Fare and Percent Change by Quarter

Quarter/Year Average Domestic Fare (2015$)
Average Fare in constant 2015 dollars ($) Quarter-to-Quarter Percent Change in Average Fare (%)
4Q 2013 388 -1.6
1Q 2014 383 -1.3
2Q 2014 393 2.6
3Q 2014 394 0.3
4Q 2014* 393 -0.3
1Q 2015* 388 -1.1
2Q 2015* 386 -0.6
3Q 2015* 372 -3.7
4Q 2015* 363 -2.5

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

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

 

Table 4. Unadjusted Average Domestic Air Fares: Percent Changes to 2015 and the Inflation Rate* by Year since 1995

(4th Quarter to 4th Quarter for fares; December to December for inflation)

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 Change to Dec 2015
1995 288      
1996 278 -3.3 -3.3 0.7
1997 294 5.5 2.0 0.8
1998 316 7.7 9.9 2.3
1999 318 0.6 10.5 4.1
2000 340 7.0 18.2 7.1
2001 300 -11.8 4.2 8.7
2002 309 3.0 7.3 11.7
2003 316 2.2 9.7 11.8
2004 297 -5.9 3.3 16.4
2005 315 5.9 9.4 19.3
2006 318 1.1 10.6 23.4
2007 330 3.6 14.6 27.4
2008 345 4.7 20.0 29.8
2009 320 -7.4 11.1 32.9
2010 335 4.7 16.3 34.9
2011 368 10.0 28.0 39.5
2012 374 1.6 30.0 43.3
2013 382 2.1 32.8 45.6
2014 393 2.8 36.4 48.1
2015 363 -7.7 26.0 53.0

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 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 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
4Q 2015 363 -2.5

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 4Q2015 U.S. Originating Domestic Passengers

Airport Groups based on 4Q 2015 Originating Passengers Average Fare 4th Quarter 2015 ($) Percent of Total Passengers
5 million+ 365 43
4-5 million 339 13
3-4 million 319 6
2-3 million 360 19
1-2 million 359 8
less than 1 million 363 11
Average Fare at All Airports 363 100

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