Let’s Look At The True Per Person Costs Of Flying

Flying is magical. No, really — don’t let any physicist tell you otherwise. Getting a hunk of metal filled with people off the ground and into the air? That’s sorcery right there.

We all know, of course, that sorcery comes at a cost. Air travel seems to be getting cheaper these days, but it isn’t exactly the most cost-effective method of travel out there. The airlines, they get you with those fuel charges!

Or do they? YouTuber Wendoverproductions breaks down the numbers in the most ridiculously informative video on air travel that you’ll ever see. As it turns out, fuel charges really don’t make up that much of the cost of your ticket. In fact, flying is actually more fuel-efficient than driving, provided you’re on a full flight. Breaking down the numbers, a flight from New York to D.C. only uses $2.50 worth of fuel per person.

“So why do these tickets cost upwards of 80 dollars?” you’re asking. The video asks the exact same question, and the answer to that question is…well, complicated.

Let’s break it down:

Crew Costs: $1.50

First off, there’s the cost of personnel: the pilot, copilot, and flight attendants all have to get paid. Luckily, that number isn’t too huge.

Airport Fees: $13.50
Apparently, airlines have to pay for the privilege of using all those gates and porters airports have on offer. Makes sense — it’s sort of like a parking fee. Except not really at all.

Miscellaneous Taxes & Fees: $15.60
Because everyone is out for some money when it comes to air travel, including the government. What types of miscellaneous taxes and fees are involved? Everything from the Domestic Passenger Ticket Tax to the 9/11 Security Fee, which is the thing that makes us all take off our shoes when we pass through the scanners. Safety costs money, y’all.

Airplane Costs: $11.50
Who do you think pays for the actual airplanes? That’s right, the passengers, bit by bit, flight by flight. But not only that — there’s also…

Maintenance Costs: $14.00
Flying Magic Boxes are exponentially more complicated than cars, which means they have to be maintained on a regular basis. And that maintenance doesn’t come cheap.

The Non-Flying Part of Flying: $10.00
Ten dollars is the video’s conservative estimate for how much it takes to actually run an airline company. Think about it: not only do you have CEOs and employees (so many employees!), you also have rental costs, utilities, employee benefits, advertising, and more.

Airplane Insurance: $.25

Even the airlines have to pay insurance fees to The Man, which actually totally makes sense and doesn’t contribute to the figure much. But it’s there, and it adds to the cost of the ticket.

The Very Rough Grand Total: $70.00
The video rounds up the end total of $68.75 up to an even $70 to cover all the other minor fees not accounted for. Which means that, when you consider that the average cost of a ticket from New York to D.C. is $80, you realize that profit margins for airlines are fairly slim, and that your ticket isn’t costing you all that much in the end.

But wait, there’s more! The video makes you feel even worse for complaining about outrageous airline fees by breaking down just how much those fees have dropped over the past three decades, and why. (Think outdated laws, competition, and winglets!)

If you’re still skeptical about the numbers, go ahead and watch the video for yourself. It’ll make that trip home that you’ve been putting off for so long seem like not such a bad idea after all.