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The cost of air travel in the US is up in 2022 compared with last year. After adjusting for inflation though, the price of an average plane ticket is still decreasing over the past decade.

Air traffic declined sharply at the beginning of the pandemic, but the number of flights is now near pre-pandemic levels. However, air travel’s recovery since the COVID-19 pandemic has been turbulent. Despite fewer passengers, airlines are on time less often. And prices are on the rise thanks to higher gas prices and widespread inflation, even before the upcoming holiday travel season.

How have air fares changed?

Recent increases in inflation mean prices have increased for most common goods and services, and air fares are no exception. The overall inflation rate from September 2021 to 2022 was 8.2% for all items in the Consumer Price Index. By comparison, airline fares saw one of the greatest 12-month increases in price for items in the index, rising 42.9% over the same time period.

This increase can be attributed in part to the low cost and low demand of flights in 2021, in addition to the growth of inflation this year.

Another contributor to rising air fare prices is the increase in fuel costs. In June 2022, the average cost per gallon of fuel for airlines surpassed $4 for the first time. For Q2 of 2022, fuel costs accounted for 24.2% of domestic operating expenses for airlines, compared with 14.6% in 2021, and 34.0% of international expenses, compared with 20.0% in 2021.

While airlines can engage in hedging, or using fuel contracts to limit exposure to future price changes, unexpected or drastic changes in fuel costs will still impact an airline’s financials.

Accounting for inflation, air fares increased from 2021 to 2022, but this year’s prices overall continued a long-run decline in the cost to fly. The recent increase in prices is reflective of air travel’s recovery from the pandemic, but air fare increases have generally matched or been slightly below inflation levels.

Which airports are the most expensive to fly out of?

Of the top 50 busiest airports in the US by number of passengers, Washington Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC was the most expensive to fly out of, with an average domestic airfare from April to June 2022 of $525.70. Average domestic airline fares are influenced by the most common flight routes, seat types, and airlines for each airport, as well as regional differences in expenses.

Most expensive airports to fly out of among top 50 airports, April-June 2022
Airport Average
domestic airline itinerary fares
Dulles International (IAD)
Francisco International (SFO)
Douglas International (CLT)
Angeles International (LAX)
International (PDX)

Least expensive airports to fly out of among top 50 airports, April-June 2022
Airport Average
domestic airline itinerary fares
Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL)
International (LAS)
International (MCO)
Oakland International (OAK)
Midway International (MDW)

Of the 50 busiest airports, 18 have seen current flight prices surpass 2019 prices, adjusted for inflation.

With air travel rising back to pre-pandemic levels, Americans across the country will be impacted by the increased cost of flights throughout the holidays.

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