In the olden days when I first started backpacking around the world, we had limited information on who had the cheapest flights. The only people who really had that data were the ones doing bookings every day—the travel agents that booked those round-the-world tickets we bought to game the system.
Now that we have real data, we can figure out if it’s better to buy from home or from Bangkok. We can see if a Canadian is better off crossing the border to the USA or flying out of Canada. If we’re already going to be in Mexico, should we just buy the flight to South America there?
This Aviation Price Index from Kiwi.com is the best report I’ve ever seen on average flight prices around the world. It’s done with an easy measuring stick: the price per 100kms of flight distance. They analyzed more than a million flights to get these figures.
We’ll look at domestic flights in another post, but for going country to country, here’s who comes out on top for full service airlines and budget airlines, along with the price per 100 kilometers.
- China – $2.84
- Tunisia – $3.18
- Norway – $3.58
- Romania – $3.72
- Bulgaria – $4.36
- India – $4.51
- Austria – $4.53
- Malaysia – $4.88
- Italy – $4.90
- Greece – $4.91
- Sweden – $5.33
- Portugal – $5.41
- Ukraine – $5.69
- Algeria – $5.92
- Poland – $6.07
Some of these probably aren’t going to help you very much: who is flying out of Algeria? But obviously you’ll find a cheaper flight to Bulgaria than you will to, say, Switzerland ($29.21 per 100 kms).
To put those numbers in a form that makes sense, a 10,000 kilometer flight from Bejing to Los Angeles would in theory average $284. That’s not a common deal anywhere, even stripping out all the taxes and fees, so it’s likely that the shorter flights within Asia end up bringing down the average. A flight from Oslo to Minneapolis (6500 kms) would be $233 each way. Again, shorter hops probably bring the average down.
Note that India is high on this list and not too far down on the budget airlines one below. That’s important because a flight can literally cut a day or two off your travel time. If you’re doing a tour of Ladakh, for instance, flying up there from Delhi won’t cost you a lot and will save you a lot of time and hassle compared to the overland option.
Who comes out on the bottom? Canada does. In a list of 75 countries, they were #75 with a whopping cost per 100 kms of $94.66, which is 10 times the average in Spain or Germany. So yes, you probably would be better off crossing to Detroit from Toronto or Seattle from Vancouver. The United States was not a bargain at $18.05, but that’s less than a fifth of Canada’s average. And yes, flying out of Mexico is cheaper still: they were #25 on the list at $8.71.
What About Budget Airlines?
Many of us cheapskates are willing to suck it up and go on whatever airline will get us to our destination for less, so thankfully the report broke the budget airlines down separately.
The outcome does change significantly when you’re comparing Norwegian Air, Air Asia, Volaris, and the like instead of the legacy carriers.
Budget airlines prices per 100 kms
- China – $1.22
- Romania – $1.69
- Malaysia- $2.11
- Tunisia- $2.78
- Portugal – $2.80
- Sweden- $2.81
- Bulgaria – $2.81
- Azerbaijan – $2.91
- Greece – $3.08
- Russia – $3.18
- Norway – $3.19
- Latvia – $3.37
- India – $3.54
- Italy – $3.65
- Spain – $3.68
For this list, a 10,000 kilometer flight from Bejing to Los Angeles would in theory average $122 if bought in China. Again, it’s likely the short-haul flights within Asia end up bringing down the average, so the real bargains are probably from Bejing to Bankok or Seoul. For the $3.54 rate per 100 for India, that would make a Delhi to New York route (12,000 kms) $425, or $850 for a round trip. I have seen deals from the USA at that price or even less.
Who comes out on the bottom? Canada again actually. In a list of 75 countries, they were #75 with a cost per 100 kms of $43.70. Moving south makes you better off: the U.S. is several times cheaper and Mexico is even less.
There are other huge disparities on this list. Sweden and Norway are far cheaper than nearby Denmark or Finland. The differences within other parts of Europe are huge: Romania and Bulgaria flights are less than 1/4 those from France. Keep this in mind when you’re planning that trip to Europe. In Asia, the Malaysia average is around 15% of the cost average of Taiwan or Japan.
Anyone who has tried to get a bargain flight to Argentina will not find it surprising that that country is one of the high-priced ones in South America, along with Bolivia. You’ll find better deals to Brazil, Colombia and Peru.
Using This Flight Price Information
The best way to make use of this data is to bookmark the report and refer to it to see what your options are when traveling abroad. If you’re doing a six-month trip through Asia and China is one the list, you’re probably best off starting there. If you’re spending the summer in Europe, look at the price to multiple airlines and plan accordingly. Google Flights is a great resource for seeing prices to everywhere from your home airport (or another close by). I’ve found Vayama to be the best of the online travel sites for sorting out multi-airline deals.
Also keep the budget airlines in mind. Norwegian Air and Air Berlin, for instance, are good long-haul options from the USA and if you can suck it up on a sucky airline for a while, Spirit Air offers some of the best prices to Latin America. Sometimes those airlines don’t share their price data with others though, so you have to go directly to their website. If it’ll save you $300 though, that could easily be worth another 15 minutes of search time, right?