The Cost of Airfare Is Actually Less Than It Was 10 Years Ago — Here's How Prices Compare
This article originally appeared on BusinessInsider.com.
It's almost 2020, and with the decade coming to a close, it's time to take a look back at some of the changes and trends that occurred over the 2010s.
One thing that has definitely changed in 10 years is the cost of airfare.
In 2008, the cost of jet fuel skyrocketed. In order to combat the price hike, airlines started charging more, adding extra fees, and cutting some of the luxuries associated with flying, like free meals and complimentary alcohol and snacks. At the beginning of this decade, we were still feeling the effects of these high fuel costs, and the no-frills way of flying was on the rise.
Today, fuel prices have gone back down, and so have ticket prices. Some luxuries, like free meals on long flights, are being reintroduced — but many of the extra fees appear to be sticking around.
So, with a lower sticker price but more extra fees, how much does a trip across the US cost today versus 10 years ago? Here are some facts to help shed some light on the subject:
The average cost of a flight in the US has actually gone down in the past 10 years. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average round-trip itinerary costs $359 in 2019, while in 2010, the average was $392 after adjusting for inflation. Without factoring inflation, the average cost of a flight in 2010 was $336.
Your ticket may cost less now, but it's nearly impossible to find an airline that won't charge you for your luggage. In 2008, right before the start of the decade, American Airlines became the first major US airline to charge for a checked bag, and others soon followed.
You're also charged more for your bags now. According to a CNN report from 2010, if your airline charged for checked baggage, it was between $20 and $35, depending on how many bags you had.
But today, according to the travel blog The Points Guy, $30 is the minimum baggage fee for most airlines, and a heavy bag could set you back up to $200. Southwest is the last of the major airlines that allows two checked bags free of charge.
This decade saw the death of the free in-flight meal: According to FareCompare, in 2010, Continental, which has since merged with United, joined other major airlines in discontinuing its free meal service for coach passengers. Exceptions were made on some international routes and domestic flights longer than six and a half hours.
However, this decade also saw the in-flight meal's return: In 2017, Travel and Leisure reported that Delta and American began serving free meals on certain routes again.
At the very beginning of 2010, very few airlines were adding surcharges for busy travel times. But according to FareCompare, airlines began adding more surcharges for fuel and holiday travel that year, and the trend continued throughout the decade.
In 2010, airlines were charging around $7 for pillows and blankets, but today most airlines don’t offer them at all, FareCompare reported. You could look at that as a saved cost, or an extra one, since if you want one you have no choice but to bring your own.
Even prices at the most isolated airports have dropped over the past decade. In 2010, 15 airports in Alaska had average outgoing flight prices of $800 or more, after inflation. By 2019, only four airports in the state had average prices that high.
Meanwhile, the most expensive US destination to fly to is Guam. And even those prices have been cut in half over the past decade. BTS data show that in 2019, the average price of a ticket to or from Guam was $1,191. That's down from the 2010 price of $2,006, adjusted for inflation.