Airline ticket prices are near historic lows, but cheap jet fuel will not always save consumers money. People are flying more direct flights than ever before, but some medium-sized airports have seen reductions in flights and increases in fares. Air traffic control reform might save taxpayers money but the federal government still spends hundreds of millions of dollars on subsidized programs such as Essential Air Service.
Understanding the modern airline industry is a complex task. This is due in part to limited availability of easily understandable data and analytics. Nuances in how the market works—particularly in light of recent airline consolidation—can leave the media and policymakers unclear on where benefits lay for consumers and constituents, and puzzled how to react.
High-profile customer service mishaps, industry consolidation, and growing demand keep airlines and other industry players under constant scrutiny by the media and the public. However, looking at system-wide averages, like most analyses do, paints an incomplete picture of how the industry has evolved and what it means for passengers. Finding an unbiased source that paints an accurately detailed picture of the industry is hard for media, researchers, and policymakers.
Eno Aviation Insights, aims to illustrate where the domestic air travel industry has been and where it is headed from an independent, objective perspective. The goal is not only look at system-wide averages, but also to try and discern what is happening in individual markets across the United States.
Eno Aviation Insights answers questions that media and consumers regularly ask but are difficult to dissect.
- Is air travel becoming pricier for travelers?
- Jet fuel prices have dropped significantly. Why haven’t ticket prices?
- How are airlines making money?
- What effect does airline consolidation have on passengers?
- How has air travel in specific metropolitan areas changed in recent years?
- Where are airline passengers getting the best service?
- What do we know about aircraft delays?
- How do taxes and fees change if air traffic control is privatized?
- Should the federal government invest heavily in expanding American airports to relieve congestion?
- How does the federal government subsidize air service to small communities?
This report makes use of public and private data sources. On the public side, there is a plethora of information available through the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) at the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), also makes several datasets available. Eno uses these data as frequently as possible, since their collection and dissemination are the most unbiased. Yet sometimes government data is incomplete or nonexistent, and this report uses some data from private sector sources. On the private side, airlines and their biggest trade association, Airlines for America (A4A), are the main sources. Academic papers and news sources complement the list of sources. Eno researchers carefully vetted all sources of information to ensure their accuracy.
Unless otherwise noted, all data refers to domestic flights only, and all monetary values are converted to 2016 constant dollars. Time series data start as the earliest year available. All sources used in this report are publicly available.
 Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator” available at https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm.