The Hourly Cost of Air Travel

plane-thru-glass-with-peopleRoad warriors, by definition, do a lot of traveling. All their airline tickets add up to some pretty big expenses, as do the hours they spend inside airplanes.

Why not take those two pieces of data and show what it costs business folks to fly per hour? Let’s face it, talking about price per mile might be great for aviation pros, but it’s not great for briefing management about travel expenses.

ARC’s Definitive Data, Air Clarity’s Innovative Analysis

Air Clarity, my firm’s air spend benchmarking tool, crunched a few million airline tickets from ARC’s corporate ticket database to get the answers. Since ARC stores all travel agency tickets sold in the U.S. on most every airline (excluding Southwest and a few other low cost airlines), this data is as good as it gets.

Here’s what the price per flight hour looks like, based on the average hourly prices paid by roughly 2,100 corporate travel programs:


The quick answer: About $80 an hour for short haul (domestic) flights; about $110 an hour for long haul flights

Doesn’t that make for a much easier conversation about the cost of air travel?

For context, this study by American Express GBT, ARC and my firm found that the average road warrior earned about $80 an hour, assuming 2,000 work hours per year.

Travel managers, try talking to your business stakeholders about the price per hour of air travel, and see if that doesn’t make for more engaged discussions.

Custom Industry Peer Group Benchmarks

If you’re wondering what your company’s price per hour is, and how that compares to other firms in your industry, good news…tClara is organizing industry peer groups to help provide even better value from our Air Clarity benchmark data. Here are the groups we’re starting:


If you’re a travel manager interested in one of our industry peer groups, follow the group by signing up here…no cost, no obligation.

More information about Air Clarity’s benchmark reports for corporate travel managers, TMCs and airlines is here.

Some limitations and definitions around these price per hour  numbers:

These are averages taken from corporate programs, with no adjustment made for the cabins in which tickets were booked. It’s safe to assume that the $262 per hour shown in the 90th percentile of all long haul programs is caused by a relatively high percentage of tickets booked in Business or First Class cabins.

The data does not factor in Southwest ticket prices, which if included would likely affect the short haul prices per hour.

A flight hour is based on the city pair’s average scheduled non-stop flight time per the Innovata airline schedule data. For markets without non-stop flights, we use the city pair’s great circle distance to estimate what the flight time would be, based on times for similar length non-stop markets.

Short haul markets are all intra-U.S. city pairs, and all exit-US city pairs less than 2,700 nautical miles (very roughly about a 6-hour flight time). All other markets are exit-US city pairs over 2,700 NMs.

These numbers reflect the average base fares paid; they exclude taxes and fees. Tickets have been scrubbed to meet tClara’s Clean & Simple airfare ticket quality tests.

4 thoughts on “The Hourly Cost of Air Travel

  1. Scott, why not break this out by cabin class? This could aid conversations about cost to upgrade the experience versus higher productivity (i.e. ROI).

    • Spot on, Werner. That’s a much easier way to frame the conversation about the cost-benefit of a cabin policy.

      This on our Air Clarity roadmap, due in Q1 2017.

      • Ta-da…it’s done! We now have prices per hour by booking class, and by cabin, for the major airlines in ARC-settled long haul and short haul markets. We’ll share some stats, and put the rest in our Air Clarity airfare benchmarking reports….

  2. Pingback: KPI Toolkit for Travel Managers | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement

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