2016 Global Flight Price Ranking

Published October 25, 2016

When we first wrote about this topic, back in December 2012, we didn’t realise how much interest our analysis would generate. Tnooz also carried the post as a guest article, and between them, the two pages attracted thousands of readers: not bad for an analysis of airline pricing, heavy on data science and light on celebrity gossip.

Now, almost four years later, we’ve decided to take another look at our model, and see how things have changed. Once again, our analysis is intended to be a conversation starter, not a definitive statement on pricing trends or a given airline’s place in any particular pecking order. Our focus remains on airlines; prices for trains, buses, ferries and taxis tend to be more constant than airfares, which fluctuate with supply and demand. However, airfares do follow certain obvious trends; longer flights cost more, and some airlines are more expensive per km flown than others. We’ve analysed our data to provide a snapshot of global pricing across international and domestic carriers.

International Flight Prices

There are many factors which can influence per km costs including the type of aircraft flown, routes flown, local salary and fuel costs, ancillary revenue, and airport landing fees. As we delved into the outliers, we found some fascinating stories. Budget carriers such as Lion Air and AirAsia are at the low end of the scale and are likely to have achieved this status via a combination of a low-cost business model and operations based in countries with lower average salaries. Airlines such as KLM are more expensive; perhaps because of their high service levels, and some of the innovative projects they’ve initiated. For example, in 2012 the airline made the first transatlantic flight fueled partly by sustainable biofuels; they’ve also started using biofuels on some European routes. The R&D behind that sort of innovation doesn’t come cheap.

Domestic Flight Prices

On the domestic carrier front, we’ve found that the type of aircraft used has a significant impact on the price per KM. Short-haul carriers operating turboprops, such as Australian airlines Regional Express and Darwin Airlines are high on the pricing scale; others at this end of the scale are likely to have smaller fleets — a good example is Czech Airlines (CSA), which operates only 19 aircraft. Even further up the scale, we find private charter airlines such as US-based Tradewinds, who specialise in shuttles to island holiday destinations in the Caribbean and the North-West of the USA.

With global uncertainty around oil prices, economic stability, geopolitical pressure and the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union, we expect there will be some changes to these flight prices over time. The EU’s open skies policy, which stimulated the growth of low-cost airlines and lowered fares may now be under pressure, and we may well see a rise in costs over the coming years.

About the ranking

We based our airline price comparison on economy class airfares displayed by Rome2rio in January and February 2016. For each list of flight booking options displayed by Rome2rio, we recorded the competitive fares: fares no more than twice as expensive as the cheapest available at the time. After limiting each airline to 10,000 samples, we were able to analyse 1,180,000 fares.