Average airfares fell to a record low in 2020

A Delta plane sits at the International Terminal at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport with a solitary traveler waiting for a flight amid new European travel restrictions on Monday, March 16, 2020, in Atlanta. International and domestic air travel were hammered by the coronavirus in 2020. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
A Delta plane sits at the International Terminal at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport with a solitary traveler waiting for a flight amid new European travel restrictions on Monday, March 16, 2020, in Atlanta. International and domestic air travel were hammered by the coronavirus in 2020. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Average airfares hit a 25-year low in 2020 as the number of travelers on U.S. airlines dropped dramatically because of the pandemic, according to a federal report released Tuesday.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics said the average domestic air fare last year was $292, making it the lowest inflation-adjusted fare since the agency started collecting those records in 1995.

That’s down significantly from the average domestic fare of $359 in 2019, which was also the previous inflation-adjusted low.

But even not adjusted for inflation, last year’s average air fare of $292 was on par with 1995 and slightly above the average of $277 in 1996.

Nationally, fares declined significantly to $245 in the third quarter of 2020, before recovering to $261 in the fourth quarter. That fourth quarter average fare was still down 28% from $357 a year earlier.

The sharp drop came as the number of passengers traveling on U.S. airlines declined 60%.

In Atlanta, the average air fare was $250 in the third quarter of 2020 and $260 in the fourth quarter.

The DOT’s average fares are based on round-trip itineraries, but the data also include one-way tickets if no return fare is purchased.

This year, fares have fluctuated. Travel app Hopper said its data indicates domestic fares will rise in early May, increasing 12% leading into the busy summer travel period. For this summer, Hopper forecasts domestic fares likely will be 10-20% lower than summer 2019, but higher than summer 2020 when few people took to the skies.

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