Why Is Flying so Cheap?

Sploid titles a post What the Heck Makes Flying So Expensive? I looked at it and thought, really? What the heck makes flying so cheap? I am going to New York City next month and wanted to take the train, but it is $167 one way, takes 14 hours and requires an extra night in a hotel. Flying in a Q400 turboprop takes 90 minutes and costs $115; going by jet costs $138. Who said flying was expensive?

In fact, as this great video shows at the end, flying is cheaper than ever, half of what it cost thirty years ago, when they were already flying jumbo jets.

cost per mile

The Atlantic

There are all kinds of reasons; the planes are more efficient, they pack more people in, they provide fewer services and they treat everything from food to baggage handling as an extra cost now. In fact, according to Sploid,

Even though giant passenger jets do guzzle down fuel at a ridiculous 0.67 miles per gallon—seriously, they need 1.5 gallons of jet fuel for every mile traveled—there are so many people on an airplane that the fuel cost gets split down to a much more reasonable price: a per-person fuel efficiency of 104.7 miles per gallon. That’s good! So why is flying so expensive? It’s everything else.

By that they mean the taxes, security, airport fees, the cost of the planes and the crews on them. It is a fascinating video, that does make the point at the end that flying is pretty much cheaper than it has ever been. And if I thought I was reducing my carbon footprint by taking the train, I am probably wrong; this graph shows the comparative fuel economies, but assumes the train is full; the last time I was on the run to New York it was not even close.

Of course the graph doesn’t show the true picture; as Mike has noted earlier, people travel much longer distances by plane, and there is the “radiative forcing ratio” where the warming effect from aircraft emissions are more dire than carbon dioxide emissions at grade. But still, it surprises. And for my trip to New York City, flying turboprop (which uses 64% of the fuel of a jet) turns out to be the greenest way that I can go.

We used to quote George Monbiot a lot, when he said Flying is dying. But until we are all driving Teslas or getting sucked through Hyperloops, it may well be the best way to go.

Written by Lloyd Alter. Reposted with permission from TreeHugger.


Joe Le Gris
Joe Legris2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carol S.
Carol S2 years ago

Long haul flights just o up and up....well at least all the fees. In the end it costs almost twice as much to fly overseas as it did in 2005. I fly overseas at least twice a year, so I can easily compare outlays.

Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Flying is useful and cheap but the TSA lines and small seats make it torture.

Sarah Crockett
Sarah Crockett2 years ago


Erin H.
Erin H2 years ago

Interesting article, thank you for sharing

Randy Q.
Past Member 2 years ago

"Why Is Flying so Cheap?"

1) Airlines easily managed to manipulate the minds of unthinking Americans via the media into paying fees for every single second of their flight, in some cases that includes taking a pee.

2) Airlines don't maintenance their planes anymore. That saves loads of money.

Carol P.
Carol P2 years ago

This post is practically promoting air travel, which is the last thing I expect on the care2 site. It isn't about choosing the most-efficient or least-expensive option. Its about deciding whether or not you need to make the trip at all. If you really want to protect the planet, stay close to home and make long-distance travel a rare luxury.

I don't think people will truly appreciate our current options for travel until the era of big oil ends and they become either non-existent or prohibitively expensive.

Aline M.
Aline M2 years ago

Thank you for this post !