Save on Travel: The Most Expensive Airports

Have you ever noticed that certain airports are consistently more expensive than others? I certainly have. The good news is that our nearest airport offers generally competitive fares. The bad news is that I grew up near one of the country’s most expensive airports, so many of our family trips involve a choice between a steep airfare and a long, long, long drive.

With that as a backdrop, I thought I’d share this list of the country’s most expensive airports that I ran across in a recent issue of Forbes. Entries on this list are ranked based on the cost per mile travelled.

  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (Covington, KY) — $0.48/mile
  • Cherry Capital (Traverse City, MI) — $0.41/mile
  • Tri-Cities Regional (Johnson City, TN) — $0.39/mile
  • Columbia Metropolitan (Columbia, SC) — $0.39
  • Duluth Intl. (Duluth, MN) — $0.38/mile
  • Greenville-Spartanburg Intl. (Greenville-Spartanburg, SC) — $0.38/mile
  • Shreveport Regional (Shreveport, LA) — $0.37/mile
  • Yeager Airport (Charleson, WV) — $0.37/mile
  • Douglas Intl. (Charlotte, NC) — $0.37/mile
  • McGhee Tyson (Knoxville, TN) — $0.37/mile
  • La Crosse Municipal (La Crosse, WI) — $0.36/mile
  • Springfield-Branson National (Springfield, MO) — $0.36/mile
  • Roanoke Regional (Roanoke, VA) — $0.36/mile
  • MBS Intl. (Saginaw, MI) — $0.36/mile
  • Fort Wayne Intl. (Fort Wayne, IN) — $0.36/mile
  • Outagamie County Regional (Appleton, WI) — $0.36/mile
  • Kahului Airport (Kahului, HI) — $0.36/mile
  • Evansville Regional (Evansville, IN) — $0.35
  • Panama City-Bay City Intl. (Panama City, FL) — $0.35
  • Kona Intl. (Kona, HI;) — $0.35/mile
  • Memphis Intl. (Memphis, TN) — $0.35/mile
  • Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (Charlottesville, VA) — $0.35/mile
  • Capital City Airport (Lansing, MI) — $0.35/mile
  • Ronald Reagan Intl. (Washington, D.C.) — $0.35/mile
  • Asheville Regional (Asheville, NC) — $0.34/mile
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul Intl. (Minneapolis, MN) — $0.34/mile
  • Chattanooga Metropolian (Chattanooga, TN) — $0.34/mile
  • Hilo Intl. (Hilo, HI) — $0.34/mile
  • O’Hare Intl. (Chicago, IL) — $0.34/mile
  • Huntsville Intl. (Huntsville, AL) — $0.34/mile
  • Bangor International (Bangor Maine) — $0.34/mile

For reference, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood Intl. ($0.16/mile) Long Beach/Daugherty Field ($0.15/mile)m and Ted Stevens Anchorage Intl. ($0.14/mile) are amongst the country’s cheapest airports.

One of the things that you’ll notice is that the list is tilted toward smaller, regional airports — perhaps in part to the fact that these airports tend to specialize in shorter routes — there are a number of larger airports, as well. In most of these cases, you can see the effects of a lack of competition. For example, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International, O’Hare International, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International are all major hubs whose gates are disproportionately controlled by a single airline.

So… What’s a savvy traveller to do?

As is the case with just about everything, you’ll get a better deal if you’re willing to shop around. If your nearest airport is a ripoff, perhaps you can drive slightly further to another airport in your area. Of course, that’s not always possible, so you might be stuck paying for the privilege of flying out of an overpriced airport. Beyond changing locations, your best bet is to be flexible with regard to times, dates, and airline of choice.

13 Responses to “Save on Travel: The Most Expensive Airports”

  1. Anonymous

    I actually did know that, but we figured it would be so small that it wouldn’t make a difference. I think when my mother passed we had relatives trying to get that discount and it was maybe $50. I could be wrong though.

  2. Anonymous

    Know that with a death, you can call the airline and request a “death in the family” rate. You have to be able to show an obituary I believe, but it is an option. Also, Allegiant Airlines now flies into Tri-Cities, but because regional will not show up on any searches like Orbitz.

  3. Anonymous

    Well that explains a lot. We had a death in the family last week and had to travel to the area served by Tri-Cities Regional. The cost, per person, from Omaha, was around $1000. Yes, it was last minute but still, that’s insane! This isn’t a popular vacation destination it’s the middle of No Wheresville Poverty Central USA. We drove instead. Nearby airports were no cheaper.

  4. Anonymous

    I used to live in Cincinnati, and the problem there is the Delta monopoly. Additionally, it’s a big business city with Procter and Gamble and The Kroger Co. paying for business flights. The airport doesn’t care about the residents only the big businesses willing to pay.
    I would often times travel to Columbus airport and park my car there to save money versus flying from CVG.

  5. Anonymous

    I always struggle with the same problem: the closest one is the most expensive, and the farthest one is the cheapest. I actually tried calculating the value of my free time and priced it into my decision of which airport to fly out of. But the biggest savings impact was in the cost of parking or storing the car nearby! The mid-range airport had the cheapest parking so it ended up being the best deal!

  6. Anonymous

    My mom’s closest airport is a tiny regional that is rediculously expensive. The next closest, an hour drive, is on your list. The next two are significantly cheaper, but 2.5-3 hours driving.

    I always end up sucking it up and paying for the one on the list because for the difference in price I don’t think 5 hours round trip driving twice in a week is worth it.

  7. Anonymous

    Does anyone know of an airfare search site that lets users select multiple, arbitrary FROM and TO airports? From eastern Washington I can fly from Pasco (1hr), Spokane (3h), Boise (4h), Seattle (4h) or Portland (4h). But I’ve never found a tool that lets me search that broadly. The “include nearby airports” option only has a set radius of about 100 miles tops. So I end up having to do five separate searches and compare the results myself.

  8. Anonymous

    My family lives where the Tri-cities airport is. It’s a small regional airport, so really the only option unless you drive another 1 1/2 hours to another slightly less small regional airport. However, Allegiant Air has moved in and is now flying out to at least some locations and luckily to where we live in Tampa. We just got a round trip for $60. Now, I wonder if Forbes only factored in the standard carriers or if there were any smaller regional carriers factored in.

  9. Anonymous

    Thank God I live smack dab in the middle between Boston and NY. While I’m located in expensive territory, there’s plenty of competition, so none of the 5 major international airports in my general area (JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, Logan, or Bradley in CT) made this list. Good to know I probably won’t get totally ripped off next time I try to book a flight.

  10. Anonymous

    Its often significantly cheaper for me to fly from Dayton to Cincinnati and then from Cincinnati to my destination. The airports are only about an hour drive apart, but because of those airport fees (which don’t seem to show up when you have a layover in that airport) its cheaper to take that extra 15 minute flight.

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