Average U.S. Airfares in 2011 Highest on Record

If you flew last year, you already know you paid a fair amount of money for your airline tickets – but did you know you might have paid a record-breaking price?

The Cheapest Places to Fly This Summer

Average U.S. Airfare of $364 Highest Ever

According to the latest figures from the government’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS.gov), the average airfare for all of 2011 was the highest on record at $364*. That’s an increase of more than 8 percent over all of 2010, and an increase of more than 5 percent over the previous record-breaking year of 2008.

*highest since such record-keeping began in 1995

See how many airfare hikes we’ve seen so far this year

2000 Prices Still Highest, Adjusted for Inflation

The 2011 airfare average is also up from the relatively expensive pre-9/11 airfare averages of the year 2000. However, if you adjust the 2000 figure for inflation, it’s a different story: the 2011 average airfare figure is actually down more than 17 percent over 2000.

Mergers, Oil and Pent-up Demand

Still ticket prices have been increasing, just as airfare analyst Rick Seaney predicted. “Mergers and capacity cutting – and we’ve seen plenty of both – are big factors in the rise of airfare prices,” said Seaney, “So is the high price of oil.”

Why the Price of Airfare Continues to Rise (and what you can do)

In the fourth quarter of 2011, average fares were up 10 percent over the fourth quarter of the previous year. Which is pretty much as Seaney expected: “There’s a lot of pent-up demand, and people who may not have flown when the economy was at its worst are determined to do so now.”

When Airfare Prices will Drop

Beyond the occasional airfare sale, prices for summer – one of the most lucrative-revenue times of the year for airlines – are again on the rise, leading flyers to wonder when airfares will drop. Seaney points out prices will drop “naturally” at the end of the season beginning in late August – otherwise, prices will remain high unless travelers tell the airlines they’ve had enough. This will occur when/if travelers start skipping vacation flights in favor of driving – or resurrecting those infamous staycations that were so popular a few years back.


Published: May 1, 2012