The Wall Street Journal’s excellent column, The Middle Seat, examines airline costs broken down by the seat.
Fuel now is by far the biggest cost for airlines—greater than even airline salaries. On that 100-passenger US Airways flight, the tickets and fees of 29 people pay just for the fuel to make the trip. (Salaries are the second-highest cost, with 20 passengers covering personnel paychecks.)…
After fuel and salaries come ownership costs—buying and leasing planes. That includes the cost of spare engines and insuring planes in case of accidents. In the hypothetical 100-passenger flight, 16 people cover these costs.
Another 14 passengers cover the collective federal taxes paid by passengers, US Airways calculated. That money helps fund the Federal Aviation Administration, plus the Sept. 11 security fees that cover much of the cost of Transportation Security Administration screening, and facility charges that most airports add to tickets. Fuel taxes paid by airlines are counted with other fuel costs. In the end, passengers pay more in government taxes and fees than they do for baggage fees and other add-ons.