Domestic U.S. air travel has recovered to within 80% of pre-pandemic levels, but airfare costs remain significantly lower.
Personal finance and research site ValuePenguin says the average domestic round-trip airfare at U.S. airports in the second quarter of 2021, the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Passenger Origin and Destination Survey, was 20% cheaper than the average for the fourth quarter of 2019.
The average at the 100 largest U.S. airports was $299.93. Airfares hit a pandemic low in the third quarter of 2020, at an average $253.79, a 32% drop as airlines tried to lure travelers back.
Average round-trip domestic fares at the D.C. area’s three airports are in line with the national decline compared to late 2019.
Reagan National ranks No. 45 for percentage drop, down 19.3% with an average fare of $318.70. Dulles ranks No. 50, down an average of 19%, though Dulles remains the most expensive of the three airports here, with an average fare in the second quarter of 2021 of $395.10.
BWI Marshall ranks No. 61, with fares down an average 16.9%. BWI is also the least expensive of our three airports, with an average fare of $282.23.
Figures are adjusted for inflation and include taxes and fees, but not optional baggage fees.
ValuePenguin expects the gap between pre-pandemic fares and current airfares to continue to narrow when more recent data is released.
“As the pandemic started to calm down and people started to feel comfortable traveling again, airline prices slowly began to rise,” said ValuePenguin travel rewards writer Sophia Mendel.
The biggest drops in airfares compared to pre-pandemic levels are Newark Liberty International and Pensacola International, down 30%, and John F. Kennedy International, down 28.6%.
Only two airports have seen fares catch up to pre-pandemic costs; Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport, where average fares are 2.4% higher than pre-pandemic, and Kahului airport, where average fares are 4.1% higher than pre-pandemic.
ValuePenguin’s full list of average domestic fares at the 100 largest U.S. airports is online.