There are a lot of elements that go into the price of a flight, from staff costs to government fees to landing gate charges at airports. One big variable—and the ones most airlines use to justify all kinds of add-ons and extras—is the price of fuel. Well how much does it really cost to carry each passenger a thousand miles through the air?

Spirit Air is doing its best to figure that out and share it with its customers. It has published a handy dandy chart showing how much it costs them in fuel to go a certain range of distance. You can see the full breakdown at this link, but here are a few examples:

  • A short hop of 400 to 599 miles costs them $21.67 at current fuel rates
  • Going 800 to 999 miles is a shade over $30
  • Their longest hauls of 2000+ miles costs $78 per passenger in fuel

So to put that in real terms, for Ft. Lauderdale to Cancun, fuel is only around $22. Flying all the way to Lima from there, fuel is more than $78 per passenger. All these rates assume an 80% load factor, so if the flight is jammed full the actual cost per person would be a bit less. I’m not sure how cargo is figured in. And what if my seatmate weighs twice as much as I do? Should those who can’t fit in a regular airline seat multiply by two?

Think about this next time you see a $300 “fuel surcharge” on your legacy airline flight to Europe. Where’s that money really going? Why isn’t it just included in the price of the ticket?

When you see these fuel prices though, it makes Spirit’s cheap fares look even better, especially if you’re part of that $9 fare club. If you can snag one of those rates, you are flying for less than the cost of the fuel, never mind all the other costs the airline bears. So smile when you pay that checked baggage fee or a swipe your credit card for a cup of coffee in the air. Chances are those fees might not even get you back to even.

If you just want to get from point A to point B and have plenty of cash left over for spending after arrival, Spirit Air serves many Latin American destinations besides Cancun and Lima. They’ll get you to Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, and four locations in Colombia.

More on airlines serving Latin America. Thanks to SmarterTravel for the original post on this.