Why Flying is So Expensive
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Why Flying is So Expensive

August 25, 2019


Flying is expensive. Why is this? Well most
would say it’s because of the cost of fuel, but that’s not entirely true. The Airbus
a320neo can carry 6,400 gallons of fuel. That’s the equivalent of 376 fully tanked Toyota
Camry’s. For every mile that the a320 flies, it burns 1.5 gallons of jet fuel. That works
out to a paltry .67 miles per gallon. An a320 could barely fly from the Empire State Building
to Grand Central Terminal on that gallon of fuel. To fly the 213 miles from New York to
DC, that a320 needs 317 gallons of fuel. With that amount, our Toyota Camry could drive
from New York to LA 49 times. But, we do have to consider that a Camry only seats five.
An a320 seats 154. So, assuming that our plane is fully loaded, it now has a per person fuel
efficiency of 104.7 miles per gallon. That’s amazing! According to the Bureau of Transport
Statistics, airlines pay on average only $1.24 per gallon of fuel. So, flying from New York
to DC, you personally only use $2.50 worth of fuel, so why do these tickets cost upwards
of $80! Well, there’s so much more that goes into your ticket price than fuel. Before
we start, I’ll quickly mention that these are all rough estimates. Many of these prices
will vary widely through time and there are certainly ways that airlines reduce these
costs, but this will give you a general idea of what actually makes flying so expensive.
The first thing we can add to our ticket price is crew costs. A pilot makes on average around
$79,000 a year which works out to about $44 per flight hour. We have two pilots so for
our hour long flight from New York to DC so that’s $88 to the pilots. A fully loaded
a320 requires four flight attendants who are each paid around $38 per flight hour for a
total of $152 bringing our crew costs up to $240. So, with our 154 seats that works out
to just about $1.5 per person in crew costs. Alright, now we’re at $4 dollars. Next,
we gotta pay the airports. New York’s John F Kennedy Airport charges $6.33 per thousand
pounds of airplane taking off, and our a320 weighs 172,000 pounds. That means we have
to give $1089 dollars to JFK or $7 per person. Dulles airport doesn’t publish their landing
fees, but we’ll assume it’s about the same as JFK’s landing fees at $1005 for
our now 170,000 pound airplane. These fees generally include the cost of using gates,
porters, and other airport resources, and divide down to $13.5 per person. Our total
is now at $17.5. Now we get to the fun part—taxes. There’s a litany of different taxes and
they all vary by country, so for the sake of simplicity we’ll just cover the ones
for the US. The simplest tax is the Domestic Passenger Ticket Tax at 7.5% of the ticket
price. That money goes to the FAA. If you land or take off a rural airport, which is
defined as, “an airport with less than 100K enplanements during 2nd preceding calendar
year, and either 1) is not located within 75 miles of another airport with 100K+ enplanements
per year, 2) is receiving essential air service subsides, or 3) is not connected by paved
roads to another airport,” they also tack on another 7.5%. That, of course, doesn’t
apply to either of our airports. The FAA also charges $4 flat for any flight within the
US, unless you go to Hawaii or Alaska. Then they charge $8.70. The TSA then adds a $5.60
tax called the 9/11 security fee that goes to fund the heightened security since 9/11.
Those are only just for domestic flights. If we were flying from New York to Paris,
we would also have to add on $17.70 for the International Transportation Tax, $5.50 for
the US customs user fee, $5.00 for the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Fee, $7.00 for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Fee, and $14 for the French Civil Aviation
Tax. So with all the taxes and fees that apply for this short flight, we’re now at $33
total. Now, lets remember that airplanes are expensive. Our a320 costs 107 million dollars.
The service life for airplanes is not actually determined by flying time, it’s determined
by something called flight cycles, which is basically a fancy word for one flight. It
doesn’t really matter how long an airplane flies in its service life, what matters is
how many times it’s pressurized. This is because every time it’s pressurized, micro
cracks develop around the rivets that connect the the metal plates that make up a fuselage.
No matter if a plane goes on a 30 minute flight or a 9 hour flight, the wear and tear to the
plane will be the same. This is why large long-haul airplanes are often older. They
might only go through one flight cycle per day while small regional jets could go through
eight or ten. So, back to our a320. Our plane is actually a pretty durable aircraft. It
can fly up to 60,000 cycles. So if we divide the total price of our plane by the maximum
number of flight cycles, we get that $1783 per flight must be devoted towards paying
off the initial price of the airplane. Per person, that works out to $11.5 dollars. We’re
now at $44.5 dollars. To keep this plane safe, airlines have to also perform regular maintenance.
For our hour long flight, an airline has to do maintenance that will cost $646 in labor,
$276 in parts, $603 in inspections and component overhauls, and another $596 in engine restoration.
That’s $2121 total or $14 per person. We’re up to $58.5 dollars. We also have to consider
the non-flying part of flying. Overseeing any flight is an airline which is a business
that has costs in and of itself. They need to pay administrators, executives, software
engineers, marketers, consultants, customer service personal, public relations agents,
janitors, along with rent, benefits, travel costs, utilities, and more. It’s hard to
put an exact number on how much per person this works out to, but we’ll make a conservative
estimate of $10. We’re up to $68.5. Alright, insurance. An airline will pay about $106,500
per year for insurance for an a320 and assuming our plane spends eight hours per day in the
air, $36 of this insurance is for this hour long flight, or about 25 cents per person.
So, our very rough grand total is $68.75. We’ll round this up to $70 since there are
various small things I didn’t cover such as hotel costs for crew members, plane storage,
apu rental, liability insurance, etc. That means that $10 of our plane ticket is profit,
but keep in mind that all my estimates were on the conservative end and it’s all assuming
a fully loaded airplane. In the end, not a ton of the money actually goes to the airline.
Back to my first line: “flying is expensive.” Well, it really isn’t and it’s getting
cheaper. To fly in the magic metal bird across the country from New York to L.A. in six hours
costs around $340 roundtrip. To drive in our very fuel efficient Toyota Camry across the
country in forty hours costs $340 just in fuel then an additional $300 in estimated
maintenance and depreciation costs. In the past 30 years, the average inflation adjusted
airfare has dropped by 50% and it’s still dropping. In 1974, it was actually illegal
for airlines to offer a flight between New York and LA for less than $1442 inflation
adjusted dollars and now you can sometimes find these flights for less than $200 round
trip. One of the reasons for this drop in prices is the rise of efficient airplanes.
Certain innovations such as composite construction, better aerodynamics, more efficient engines,
and, perhaps most notably, winglets have driven down the cost of flying. Here’s the one
and only “Real Engineering” to explain winglets. As you said, the airline industry is constantly
finding ways to drive down their fuel consumption. In the early 70’s, fuel prices rocketed, and
engineers were forced to find ways to make their planes more efficient. One way they
found was with winglets, which are those little curly bits at the end of the wing. Let’s have
a quick look at how they work. Winglets were introduced to decrease induced drag, which
occurs when high-pressure air below the wing begins to bleed over the edge into the low-pressure
air above. This flow creates vortices off the tips of the wings that creates drag and
reduces lift which reduces the fuel economy of the plane. Winglets act to reduce these
vortices by reducing the airflow over the edge of the wing. For a full explanation and
a look at the history behind winglets, head over to my channel and watch my new video
which features a special guest appearance from Wendover Productions. Thank’s Real Engineering! Be sure to go
check out and subscribe to Real Engineering’s channel. If you like this channel, I guarantee
you will enjoy his. I’ll leave you with the real reason specific airfares are expensive,
but also a reason why they’re getting cheaper—competition, or lack there of. The airline industry is
one with very little competition. Airfares from New York to LA are cheap because there’s
a lot of demand and there’s a relatively high amount of competition. Five different
airlines fly direct from New York to LA, two of which are budget airlines. People don’t
care that much which airline they fly, they care about the price, so airlines will try
to match the price of the budget airlines. Compare this to a route like Denver to Gunnison
Country airport. Largely because only United makes this flight, you will often pay more
than $500 for this 130 mile flight. So, that’s why your plane tickets cost so
much. Next time you book your travel, you’ll know why you’re paying so much and also
how little of that actually goes to airlines. Thank you for watching. If you enjoyed this
video, make sure to click subscribe. You can also click here to be taken to RealEngineering’s
channel. If you enjoyed this video, please share it on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Stumbleupon,
Digg—whatever website you like. You can check out last week’s video on an Illegal
number here. Also, please follow me on Twitter @WendoverPro. Lastly, I’d like to thank
you for all your support and welcome all the new subscribers from the past few weeks. Next
week I’ll be back to my normal series—That Wikipedia List.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. U need something like Rayanair Wizzar or EasyJet in US low cost airlines when you can travel from L.A to N.Y for $50-60

  2. 00:10 6400 US gallons = 24 227 liter
    00:24 0.67 mpg = 351 liters per 100 km
    00:37 317 US gallons = 1200 liter
    01:00 104.7 mpg = 2.25 liters per 100 km

  3. Non americans who use the metric system while he explains miles and pounds: Allright then, keep your secrets

  4. The stewardess has to make $38 an hour to make up for the constant TSA patdowns and x rays everyday. It's humilliating and demeaning!

  5. Flying is criminally cheap for the noise ,pollution and personal carbon budget busting. They don't even pay tax on fuel ! whereas my 72 year old neighbour that just shops twice a month pays full wack . disgusting. What about the costs of the billions of bailouts ? the development subsidies , the cross military involvement . Ordinary tax payers are subsidising wealthy jollies .

  6. The reason it’s so expensive is because we have to pay for the ragheads to gold plate their Rolls Royce’s.

  7. You should at least include the equivalent metric measurements as well if you want other people, besides Americans, to follow your videos comfortably.

  8. 9/11 security costs? For a agency that thinks flagging muslims racist and must not be done even if it means compromising security, i would say thats pretty useless, We must stop this madness and start following the systems of israel and india in terms of flight security practices

  9. The FAA and a corrupt system.

    It's really that simple. You cant buy a Light bulb for a certified airplane unless it has 3 inches of paperwork to back it up. And you get your plain inspected every year.. likely by the guy who you get to pay to fix it.. shockingly if theres a scratch on a brake pad you need new landing gear…..
    Consider an avid/kitfox etc is made of steel tubing that is dirt cheap, airplane canvas that is pretty damn cheap, and a 3 to 10k engine. But for a company to produce and sell them .. they have to charge 50-100k. A certified non -lsa? Double or triple that. A SLIGHTLY larger version with a tiny bit more horsepower capable of 6 to 8 passenters? 7 figures. Because of the faa. And heres the kicker: aircraft hardware/engines/etc are FAR less advanced or reliable than production automobiles and motorcycles. Economy of scale…

  10. Sooo, am I the only one here thinking we have to pay for absolutely everything? The airport, the flight attendants, security, air marshals (not mentioned in the video), gas, pilots…. and even after all that "the airlines are not making that much money". Yeah. No. I love your videos, but this one I'm not buying. Sorry.

  11. Times cheaper, cleaner and safer transportation https://hytube.alle.bg . An probably faster.

  12. The drive from NYC to LA is 2,080 miles. 2080 miles x 49 trips = 101,920 miles / 317 gallons = 321 miles per gallon! No car in the world gets close to 100 mpg let alone 317mpg. This video is total bullshit!!!

  13. Very good video and very interesting but new Americans are the only ones that I know of that talking gallons where the rest of the world is talking in litres would have been nice to know what the letters were instead of gallon's or both

  14. Everything in the aviation industry is expensive. Airlines will take a loss on short flights so you'll use them again on longer flights. Also, surprisingly, you left out class seating. Sold out economy (coach) seating barely breaks even. The profit comes from first class and second class (comfort plus for delta). In addition, rewards programs are huge for customer retention. If there is an open seat in first class, upgrade the passenger with the most mile points for free. Customer loyalty is one of the most important factors in the aviotion industry making a profit.

  15. "Flying is expensive."

    What?? No it isn't. Flying is incredibly cheap, considering the speed safety, and ease of accessibility to the general public.

    Absolutely ludicrous premise to build this video on.

  16. This video is fuking waste of time. It is like saying that if wheat or corn costs a few cents per kg or lbs then why it costs so much high when ordering food at a restaurant. Fuking stupid video makers.

  17. 9/11 security fee is another way to steal our money and it sounds more like redundancy with a fancy word to disguise the truth.

  18. I work in a repair shop that repairs planes and I can tell ya it costs way more than that to fix them and restore them back to regular condition

  19. for people outside US:

    1 US liquid gallon = 3.785 litres, 1 imperial gallon = 4.546 litres.

    Which one the video uses as a unit of volume?

  20. Winner of a video, I have been researching "watch dog flights" for a while now, and I think this has helped. Ever heard of – Beyarper Peyameron Process – (do a google search ) ? Ive heard some incredible things about it and my work buddy got amazing results with it.

  21. Consider the following:

    You are sitting in a chair bolted to a massive metal dildo with wings, and under those wings are jet engines that are using explosive liquid dinosaurs to propel you over 500 miles per hour at 35,000 feet in the sky.

    When you think about it, flying is relatively cheap.

  22. I am the inventor of the winglet boys, the engineers that designed it took the idea from me after they saw me folding a paper plane

  23. Captialism and competition is what keeps prices low. Let's do Democrat Socialism and eliminate quality, competitive prices, safety, and replace it with SHIT.

  24. Great man Awesome just watching for the first time after ad but i just loved it Great stuff look to see more like this 👍👍👍

  25. Flying is so expanisve?! No. Just no. Nononono.
    It is WAY to cheap.
    Can't speek for other Nations, but here in Germany you got no tax on cerosine. Meanwhile, Trains and stuff need to pay all those taxes and stuff.
    Plains are usually cheaper then a trainride in Europe. This is Bullshit. And this needs to be fixed.
    Plains are the most damaging forms of transport, except for cruise ships, so they need to be WAY more expansive.

  26. While in Easy Jet a flight from Portugal to Switzerland costs the same as a Big Mac menu in Switzerland 🙉😂

  27. a Toyota camery can drive from NY to L.A. 49 times on 317 gallons of fuel….. no dude…. I can't even figure out how you got that but it will take about 300 gallons to drive from NY to L.A. ONCE

  28. I don’t get why Detroit to the Philippines is more expensive than Philippines to Detroit….

    Shouldn’t they pay me to go to Detroit???

  29. Did this video take into account that business and economy costs are different? I suppose airlines make a nice profit there.

  30. I think the crew costs are higher, on a mainline carrier like American or United, they pay way more than 44$ an hour

  31. A ticket on Spirit Airline from Houston to Vegas is $79, but on United it's about $300… I never understood why. Like which "cost" in your price layer is UA overwhelmingly higher than Spirit?

  32. I flew from Amsterdam to London for 35 euros while the train ride from my home town to amsterdam was 55 euros. Explain me that please and then call plane flghts expensive again?

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