Is it the fuel? Not really. 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.
And there’s a lot of everything else: a thousand different kind of taxes to pay, a pilot’s salary, the crew cost, airport fees, airplane cost, maintenance, the non-flying part of flying (the airline’s cost of running business), and so on. All that can turn the $2.50 of fuel it takes for a person on an airplane to get from NYC to Washington, DC into $70 of “everything else.” And that figure is an estimate on the low end that doesn’t even include whatever profit the airline would like to get.
Watch the video by Wendover Productions breaking down the cost of flying. It’s a lot of little dollars here and there that adds up rather quickly.