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I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane

Plane ticket cost

It’s true! According to the Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (geez, that’s a mouthful), the average cost of a plane ticket during the first quarter of 2021 was $260. The BTS (Bureau of Transportation Statistics – not the K-Pop group) also recorded that the price of a ticket in the first quarter of 1996 was $284. Two Hundred and Eighty Four dollars! And that’s not adjusted for inflation. If we do factor inflation into the 1996 flight, it would cost $482 in today’s money.

Now, to be fair, the first three months of 2021 were not normal. Vaccines were just starting to be rolled out and a lot of people were still in tight lock-down. So we may want to take those travel prices with a grain of salt. But the BTS (again, not the pop group from South Korea) has found that the cost of plane tickets have averaged around $325 over the past 26 years. The average cost of a plane ticket peaked in 2014 at $392. Not cheap, but not crazy either.

How is this possible? For one, we can thank technology. Tech has made plane travel more efficient on the operation’s side. It also gives consumers the power to easily comparison shop. And we’re only talking about the ticket itself here. You gotta factor those pesky baggage fees into the equation most of the time. According to the BTS, baggage fees cost travelers almost $5.8B in 2019, so, there’s that. And there are plenty of other ways the carriers eek out their money from travelers. Quite a few of those fees they charge are actually free from taxes, so the airline gets to keep 7.5% more than they would if they just built it into the ticket cost. That’s why they split out certain fees.

Whichever way you want to look at it, the cost of a plane ticket doesn’t seem to be to moving too much. Which is great, since many of my clients say travel is one of their life goals. Economists are tracking the price trends closely to see where they head, but hopefully the trend continues. The real question is: where are you going to go?

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