Second Quarter 2021 U.S. Air Fare Increases As Passenger Numbers Increase Significantly

The average U.S. domestic air fare increased in the second quarter of 2021 to $300, up 12.6% from the first quarter 2021 inflation-adjusted fare of $266. The second quarter 2021 fare increased as passenger travel increased significantly.

Adjusted for inflation (constant 2021 dollars) the average 2Q 2021 air fare was:

  • Up 10.4% from second quarter 2020 ($272)
  • Up 18.2% from the lowest inflation adjusted fare of $254 in the third quarter of 2020
  • Down 24.7% from second quarter 2016 ($398)

Air fares increased as passenger demand increased. U.S. airlines reported 62.5 million originating passengers in the second quarter 2021, up from 33.4 million passengers in 1Q 2021, but down from 11.5 million passengers a year earlier.

Itinerary Fares: Fares are for round-trips, but do include one-way tickets if no return is purchased. Breakout of trip types: one-way, 40% ($222); round-trip, 60% ($362).

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.

 
Second Quarter 2021 fare ($300):
Compared to all second quarters: Down 43.8% from the highest 2Q fare, $534 in 1999.
Compared to all quarters: Down 44.7% from the highest fare for any quarter, $543 in 1Q 1999.
Start of BTS records: Down 43.4% from 1Q 1995 ($530).
Recent high: Down 26.5% from 1Q 2016 ($408).
Recent low:  Up 18.2% from 3Q 2020 ($254).
All-time low: Up 18.2% from the previous low 3Q 2020 ($254).
All-time second-quarter low: Up 10.4% from the previous low 2Q 2020 ($272).

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 62.7% of total operating revenue of $31.0 billion from passenger fares during the first six months of 2021, down from 88.5% in 1990.

Unadjusted Average Air Fares  
Second Quarter 2021 fare ($300)
Trend: Up 15.2% from 1Q 2021 ($260)
Compared to all second quarters: Down 25.4% from the highest 2Q fare, $402 in 2014
Compared to all quarters: Down 25.4% from the highest fare for any quarter, $402 in 2Q 2014
Start of BTS records: Up 1.0% from 1Q 1995 ($297) (compared to 76.9% consumer price increase)
Recent low: Up 22.5% from 3Q 2020 ($245)
Recent high: Down 16.6% from 1Q 2016 ($359)
All-time low: Up 22.5% from 3Q 2020 ($245)
All-time second-quarter low: Up 15.7% from 2Q 2020 ($259).

Fares by Airport

Fares by airport group:
Highest: 51 airports with 100,000-499,999 originating passengers ($310)
Lowest: 6 airports with 1.5-1.99 million originating passengers ($280)