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Airports With the Biggest Increase in Airfare This Year [2024 Data Study]

Alex Miller's image
Alex Miller
Alex Miller's image

Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

297 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 34U.S. States Visited: 29

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

38 Published Articles 3331 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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After COVID-19-era safety restrictions and protocols upended worldwide air travel, the airline industry is finally returning to normalcy. Airline passenger traffic in the U.S.¹ decreased an astounding 96% in April 2020 compared to the year prior, impacting not only commercial travel but all of the industries that support it.

Nearly 4 years later, America’s appetite for air travel has rebounded and the industry is returning to business as usual. COVID-19-related public health protocols² have been rescinded, international air travel restrictions³ are easing, and domestic passenger volume⁴ surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2023. However, while air travel conditions have improved, high ticket prices remain a major concern for travelers in 2024.

After rising sharply during the pandemic, round-trip airfare is starting to decrease. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

The cost of a round-trip flight decreased significantly at the onset of the pandemic, reflecting a reduced demand from travelers during the uncertain times. Between Q4 2019 and Q3 2020, the average ticket price for a round-trip flight fell by more than 33%, from $426 down to $284. However, as travel restrictions eased and public health recovered, airfares rebounded to a peak price of $495 in the second quarter of 2022. The 74% price increase for round-trip fares reflects the revived demand and widespread inflation during that period, including elevated jet fuel prices.

Commercial flight prices eased slightly in 2023, decreasing to $449 in Q3 2023. While the average round-trip ticket price nominally sits above pre-2020 prices, airfares are actually lower now than at any point prior to the pandemic after adjusting for inflation.

Airfare Increases at Primary Hub Airports

Infographic The 20 U.S. Airports With the Biggest Increase in Airfare
Small hub airports saw the biggest year-over-year increase in airfare. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Airfares may have stabilized in 2023, but some airports saw their average round-trip ticket price significantly rise, with small hub airports seeing the biggest year-over-year increases. Out of the 5 airports where prices are increasing the most, 4 are small hubs—or airports that receive 0.05%–0.25% of annual U.S. commercial enplanements. Long Beach Airport (LGB) — located roughly 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles International (LAX) and serving the same general area — saw the largest percentage increase at 16.2%. Myrtle Beach International (MYR), Manchester Boston Regional (MHT), and Rogue Valley International – Medford (MFR) — all small hub airports — all have seen round-trip airfare increases of over 12%.

Additionally, airports found in popular vacation destinations like Miami International (MIA), Key West International (EYW), and Reno/Tahoe International (RNO) also saw significant ticket price changes, with average ticket costs rising by 8.2%, 6.9%, and 6.6%.

Below is a complete breakdown of airfare changes for more than 250 airports in the U.S., grouped by size. The analysis was conducted by Upgraded Points using data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. For more information on the data, see the methodology section.

Changes in Airfare by State

There are also regional differences in airfare, with 35 states experiencing year-over-year increases in round-trip ticket prices. Less populated states and those without a major airport experienced more significant increases. 

35 states experienced year-over-year increases in average airfare. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

New Hampshire experienced the largest increase, with a 13.5% rise in average airfare. North Dakota and West Virginia had the second and third-highest growth, rising by 10.1% and 8.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, more populated states with major cities and airports like New York (+2.9%), Illinois (+2.7%), and California (+1.4%) experienced minimal changes.

Methodology

To determine the airports with the most significant increase in airfare this year, researchers at Upgraded Points analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Airline Origin and Destination Survey.

The researchers calculated the percentage change in average ticket price for round-trip itineraries from the first 3 quarters of 2022 to the same period in 2023. In the event of a tie, the airport with the greater total change in average round-trip ticket price during the same time span was ranked higher.

Both nonstop and connecting itineraries were included in the calculations, while bulk fares, itinerary fares less than $50, and itinerary yields (itinerary fare per miles flown) greater than $3 were all excluded from the analysis.

Final Thoughts

The airline industry is booming again after the pandemic’s devastating impact. Passenger numbers are back to pre-pandemic levels, even surpassing them in 2023. This resurgence comes with a focus on airfare, as travelers navigate inflation alongside their renewed desire to fly.

While ticket prices initially dipped during the pandemic, they steadily recovered as travel restrictions eased. This reflects not only revived demand but also inflation’s effect across the industry, including jet fuel prices. Airfare stabilized somewhat in 2023, but after adjusting for inflation, round-trip flights are actually more affordable than before the pandemic.

The rise in airfare isn’t uniform across the country. Small hub airports and those in popular vacation destinations saw the most significant increases. Interestingly, less populated states without major airports also experienced steeper hikes in ticket prices. This suggests regional disparities in airfare as the industry recovers.

References

1. United States Government Accountability Office. (2021, October). COVID-19 Pandemic: Observations on the Ongoing Recovery of the Aviation Industry. Retrieved on March 2, 2024 from https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-104429.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2024). Archived Orders. Retrieved March 12, 2024 from https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/archived-orders.html.

3. Shephardson, David. (2024, February 26). Chinese airlines can boost US flights to 50 per week, US says. Retrieved on March 2, 2024 from https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/chinese-passenger-airlines-can-increase-number-us-flights-usdot-2024-02-26/.

4. Tourism Economics and U.S. Travel Association. (2024). Travel Forecast. Retrieved March 12, 2024 from https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/2024-01/us_travel-forecast_fall2023-1.pdf.

Alex Miller's image

About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

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