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Finding the Least (And Most) Expensive Airports


A recent DOT study shows that average domestic airfares in the first quarter of this year were 4.4 percent higher than at the same time last year—$332 compared to $318 in 2007.

Surprised? You shouldn't be, unless you've been living under a rock. Fuel prices are up, capacity is down, and air travel is becoming increasingly expensive with nearly each passing day.

Except, it seems, in Atlantic City. The same study reveals A.C. to be the cheapest airport for domestic flights, with an average fare of $109, well over $200 less than the national average. Further, domestic fares from Atlantic City dropped nearly 49 percent year over year from 2007's mark of $212. Why is Atlantic City so cheap? Probably because the only airline that flies there is ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit. But why the city's fares have fallen this year is anyone's guess.

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Following Atlantic City are Dallas (Love), Burbank, Ft. Lauderdale, and Las Vegas, all of which come in well below the national average domestic fare. The five most expensive airports are Cincinnati, Greenville/Spartanburg, Madison, Knoxville, and Grand Rapids, all of which are $100 or more above the national average.

Airports that saw the biggest jump in fares year over year are Boston, Washington (Dulles and National), Houston (Bush), and Chicago (Midway), while airports with the largest decrease were Atlantic City (as previously mentioned), Charleston (SC), Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, and Atlanta. At quick glance, it seems fares are generally down at leisure destinations (Ft. Lauderdale, Vegas) and up at major hubs (Bush, Dulles).

The takeaway here is that while fares go up overall, and some locations see dramatic increases, there are still ways to buck the trend. Philadelphia residents may consider flying out of Atlantic City. Boston-area residents can monitor prices at Manchester or Providence. In short, a little research can uncover unexpected savings, and in these times of economic trouble, we should take whatever we can get.

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