Cost of plane tickets hits 15-year low in U.S.

In the United States, plane ticket costs have hit a 15-year low. It’s a stark contrast to the escalating financial woes that have jacked up the cost of living across the country since COVID-19 first hit the States.

In fact, it’s the first “normal” year of U.S. travel since the pandemic began back in 2020, CNN explained. Travel expert Katy Nastro told the news outlet that airfare is nearly a quarter less today than it was prepandemic and “hasn’t been this cheap since 2009.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Atlanta averaged $382.20 per plane ticket for the third quarter of 2023, the latest period of data available. In 2009, Atlanta flyers averaged $298.62 per ticket — $424.75 in today’s dollars after adjusting for inflation. Accounting for inflation, tickets in the Peach State capital’s airports were closer to $441.56 prepandemic.

The travel expert said she didn’t expect prices to drastically increase anytime soon, unless the airline industry starts seeing less competition.

“The single biggest factor for why we see cheap flights is competition,” Nastro told CNN. “We want (budget) carriers in the mix because it actually places downward pressure on the legacy carriers” and keeps prices down.

Nastro’s advice came shortly after a federal judge ruled against JetBlue’s proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit Airlines. The Biden administration sued to block the merger last year, saying the deal would reduce competition and drive up airfares.

“If allowed to proceed, this merger will limit choices and drive up ticket prices for passengers across the country” and “eliminate Spirit’s unique and disruptive role in the industry,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said last year in a news conference to announce the antitrust lawsuit.

U.S. airlines carried 78.7 million people in December 2023 alone, marking an all-time high after adjusting for seasonality.