These are the best US small airports to fly into

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Starting a vacation or trip with a late arrival or missing a connecting flight because of one can put a damper on travel plans. This can be especially bothersome when flying into smaller airports with fewer options.

The newest ValuePenguin study looks at small airports (those beyond the largest 50 by total arriving flights) to find the ones with the most seamless arrival experience.

Researchers used various metrics to determine the best small airports to fly into, from the rate of flight arrivals delayed by at least 60 minutes to cancellations to average fares.

Keep reading to learn more about the best small airports to fly into in the U.S.

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Worst small airport to fly into finishes in bottom 3 of every metric

If you hate stressful travel days, you may want to avoid Aspen/Pitkin County Airport in Colorado, the worst small airport to fly into.

Unfortunately for travelers who live nearby, this airport ranks in the bottom three among each metric examined. This includes 3.5% of arrivals being canceled and an average airfare of $607 — both the worst.

Aside from another Colorado airport — Durango-La Plata County Airport — each in the bottom 10 is in the South. While the South may not face major snowstorms, these airports can experience weather-related flight delays and cancellations due to hurricanes.

Texas, which has four airports in the bottom 10 of our newest list, experiences the most damage per hurricane on average, according to a 2021 ValuePenguin study. It’s easy to see why airports in the South would run into delays and cancellations during spots of bad weather.

If you’re looking to avoid travel delays and cancellations, consider scratching these potential small airports off your list. If you book at one of these airports, don’t forget to confirm what type of delay or cancellation coverage you have from travel insurance.

Image Credit: nicoletaionescu / istockphoto.

The best small airports to fly into are in Hawaii

You’re in luck if you’re flying to Hawaii. Not only are you about to enjoy paradise, but Hawaii airports are the best bet for a smooth journey when it comes to small airports.

Kailua-Kona, Kahului and Lihue have the best small airports to fly into in the U.S. The three have the lowest rates of major arrival delays (60 minutes or longer) across the 100 small airports this study examines. The Kailua-Kona and Kahului airports also have the lowest cancellation rates among the 100 airports. (Even though Lihue’s airport is No. 3 overall, its cancellation rate — 1.4% — is rather high at 40th across the airports examined.)

In fact, Kailua-Kona’s airport rates so highly across the board that its worst category — average airfares at $265 — is still sixth-best. The Kahului airport isn’t far off, with its average airfare ($274) being its worst category but still ranking 11th.

While small compared to the big airports, the three Hawaii airports had at least 11,000 arrivals in the 12 months examined from December 2020 through November 2021. So, you’ll have a solid amount of flight options for your tropical getaway.

Because Hawaii heavily relies on tourism revenue, it may motivate airports to keep flyers happy and things running smoothly. 2019 — before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted typical travel — saw an average of 249,000 daily visitors on the Hawaii islands, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. And these visitors spent a statewide average of $48.6 million daily.

And with Hawaii routinely experiencing good weather, it’s no surprise these airports experience fewer flight delays. Other sunny states like California and Florida also have small airports that keep customers smiling upon arrival — Long Beach Airport (seventh) and Palm Springs International Airport (ninth) in California and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (10th) in Florida.

Image Credit: Poike.

25. Fresno Yosemite International Airport

  • City: Fresno, California
  • Delay rate: 16.9%
  • Major delay rate: 4.7%
  • Average delay (minutes): 12.55
  • Cancellation rate: 1.1%
  • Average airfare: $337

Image Credit: iflyfresno / Instagram.

24. Eppley Airfield

  • City: Omaha, Nebraska
  • Delay rate: 17.9%
  • Major delay rate: 3.7%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.32
  • Cancellation rate: 1.5%
  • Average airfare:  $336

Image Credit: omaairport/ Instagram.

23. Myrtle Beach International Airport

  • City: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Delay rate: 17.4%
  • Major delay rate: 4.5%
  • Average delay (minutes): 12.33
  • Cancellation rate: 2.0%
  • Average airfare: $201

Image Credit: Sk5893 / Wiki Commons.

22. Missoula Montana Airport

  • City: Missoula, Montana
  • Delay rate: 17.4%
  • Major delay rate: 3.6%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.13
  • Cancellation rate: 0.8%
  • Average airfare: $362

Image Credit: flymissoula.com/.

21. Des Moines International Airport

  • City: Des Moines, Iowa
  • Delay rate: 16.6%
  • Major delay rate: 4.1%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.21
  • Cancellation rate: 1.5%
  • Average airfare: $331

Image Credit: DSM International Airport / Facebook.

20. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

  • City: Savannah, Georgia
  • Delay rate: 18.2%
  • Major delay rate: 4.5%
  • Average delay (minutes): 12.38
  • Cancellation rate: 1.4%
  • Average airfare: $289

Image Credit: savhhiairport / Instagram.

19. Jacksonville International Airport

  • City: Jacksonville, Florida
  • Delay rate: 18.6%
  • Major delay rate: 4.2%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.80
  • Cancellation rate: 1.3%
  • Average airfare: $320

Image Credit: flyjax.com.

18. Lehigh Valley International Airport

  • City: Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Delay rate: 16.2%
  • Major delay rate: 4.2%
  • Average delay (minutes): 12.52
  • Cancellation rate: 1.9%
  • Average airfare: $265

Image Credit: flyabe_/ Instagram.

17. Key West International Airport

  • City: Key West, Florida
  • Delay rate: 18.8%
  • Major delay rate: 3.4%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.56
  • Cancellation rate: 1.4%
  • Average airfare: $320

Image Credit: eyw.com.

16. Tri-Cities Airport

  • Airport: Tri-Cities Airport
  • City: Pasco, Washington
  • Delay rate: 11.2%
  • Major delay rate: 2.6%
  • Average delay (minutes): 9.22
  • Cancellation rate: 0.9%
  • Average airfare: $374

Image Credit: Tri-Cities Airport – PSC / Facebook.

15. Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport

  • City: Medford, Oregon
  • Delay rate: 15.9%
  • Major delay rate: 3.3%
  • Average delay (minutes): 9.91
  • Cancellation rate: 0.9%
  • Average airfare: $355

Image Credit: flymfr / Instagram.

14. Charleston International Airport/Charleston AFB

  • City: Charleston, South Carolina
  • Delay rate: 18.7%
  • Major delay rate: 4.2%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.75
  • Cancellation rate: 1.3%
  • Average airfare: $293

Image Credit: iflychs / Instagram.

13. Palm Beach International Airport

  • City: West Palm Beach, Florida
  • Delay rate: 18.1%
  • Major delay rate: 4.0%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.87
  • Cancellation rate: 1.3%
  • Average airfare: $304

Image Credit: flypbi / Instagram.

12. Ontario International Airport

  • City: Ontario, California
  • Delay rate: 18.2%
  • Major delay rate: 4.2%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.87
  • Cancellation rate: 1.2%
  • Average airfare: $308

Image Credit: Ontario International Airport / Facebook.

11. Eugene Airport (Mahlon Sweet Field)

  • City: Eugene, Oregon
  • Delay rate: 14.4%
  • Major delay rate: 3.4%
  • Average delay (minutes): 10.56
  • Cancellation rate: 1.0%
  • Average airfare: $346

Image Credit: flyeug / Instagram.

10. Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport

  • City: Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida
  • Delay rate: 19.0%
  • Major delay rate: 3.8%
  • Average delay (minutes): 11.40
  • Cancellation rate: 1.4%
  • Average airfare: $271

Image Credit: Roman Tiraspolsky / iStock.

9. Palm Springs International Airport

  • City: Palm Springs, California
  • Delay rate: 14.3%
  • Major delay rate: 2.9%
  • Average delay (minutes): 8.69
  • Cancellation rate: 1.4%
  • Average airfare: $333

Image Credit: palmspringsairport.com.

8. Glacier Park International Airport

  • City: Kalispell, Montana
  • Delay rate: 16.0%
  • Major delay rate: 2.4%
  • Average delay (minutes): 8.82
  • Cancellation rate: 0.6%
  • Average airfare: $346

Image Credit: iflyglacier.com.

7. Long Beach Airport (Daugherty Field)

  • City: Long Beach, California
  • Delay rate: 14.2%
  • Major delay rate: 2.4%
  • Average delay (minutes): 7.99
  • Cancellation rate: 1.6%
  • Average airfare: $273

Image Credit: longbeach.gov.

6. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport

  • City: Bozeman, Montana
  • Delay rate: 16.0%
  • Major delay rate: 3.0%
  • Average delay (minutes): 9.74
  • Cancellation rate: 1.2%
  • Average airfare: $302

Image Credit: bozemanairport.com.

5. Spokane International Airport (Geiger Field)

  • City: Spokane, Washington
  • Delay rate: 14.9%
  • Major delay rate: 2.7%
  • Average delay (minutes): 8.63
  • Cancellation rate: 1.0%
  • Average airfare: $318

Image Credit: flygeg / Instagram.

4. Boise Airport (Boise Air Terminal) (Gowen Field)

  • City: Boise, Idaho
  • Delay rate: 14.8%
  • Major delay rate: 3.1%
  • Average delay (minutes): 9.49
  • Cancellation rate: 0.9%
  • Average airfare: $293

Image Credit: Boise Airport / Facebook.

3. Lihue Airport

  • City: Lihue, Hawaii
  • Delay rate: 9.6%
  • Major delay rate: 1.4%
  • Average delay (minutes): 5.77
  • Cancellation rate: 1.4%
  • Average airfare: $261

Image Credit: airports.hawaii.gov/.

2. Kahului Airport

  • City: Kahului, Hawaii
  • Delay rate: 13.9%
  • Major delay rate: 2.1%
  • Average delay (minutes): 8.29
  • Cancellation rate: 0.5%
  • Average airfare: $274

Image Credit: http://airports.hawaii.gov/.

1. Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole

  • City: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
  • Delay rate: 10.7%
  • Major delay rate: 1.6%
  • Average delay (minutes): 5.99
  • Cancellation rate: 0.5%
  • Average airfare: $265

Image Credit: http://airports.hawaii.gov/.

Are heavy delays OK when airfare is cheap?

Traveling is expensive. Plenty of Americans are on the hunt for good deals, but are they worth suffering through delayed flights?

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in Florida may illustrate that some travelers are willing to forgo convenience for savings. This airport has the highest percentage of major arrival delays at 8.6%, but its average airfare is only $122.

Across the board, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport doesn’t perform well:

  • Major delay rate: 100th
  • Delay rate: 100th
  • Average delay: 99th
  • Cancellation rate: 84th

It’s up to travelers to decide if this trade-off is worth the savings. Again, hurricanes are probably coming into play here, with the Sunshine State no stranger to them.

Sophia Mendel, ValuePenguin credit cards and travel rewards writer, advises travelers to manage their expectations when traveling at airports notorious for delays.

“If you choose an airport that is known for significant flight delays but where flights are cheaper, you’ll need to consider that you get what you pay for,” Mendel says. “You’ll need to make sure to budget extra time for inevitable delays and avoid choosing a connection with too quick of a turnaround time.

“If you’re not in a hurry or don’t mind delays, it can be worth it to pay the cheapest fare. However, if you’d rather be sure you’ll get to your destination in a timely manner, you may want to pay a higher price for a more reliable airport.”

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

How these small airports compare to biggest ones

If you want to avoid travel delays, larger airports may be a safer bet, as they’re generally known for being more reliable than smaller airports.

Only 4.0% of flights at the largest 50 airports (by arrivals) experience delays of at least an hour, compared with 4.6% at the next 100 largest airports.

Besides being more convenient in terms of delays, average flight prices are also cheaper at the 50 biggest airports ($307.20) than the next 100 largest airports ($348.20).

Across all the aforementioned rankings, the larger airports performed better aside from the cancellation rate — a tie at 1.6%.

Mendel explains why larger airports may experience fewer delays.

“Large airports are typically situated in or near big cities that may have a lesser risk for severe weather conditions or natural disasters,” Mendel says. “Larger airports also tend to have more runway space, which means more available flights and more employees available in case of crew or pilot issues.

“You’ll be more likely to experience a delay at the Aspen airport, which has a smaller capacity for flights and is more prone to inclement weather, than you would at the Denver airport in a major city four hours away.”

Image Credit: Joe_Potato.

How to pick right small airport for your next trip

If you’re considering flying into or out of a small airport for your next trip, Mendel shares some helpful tips for you to keep in mind to help ensure your journey is as smooth as possible:

  • Choose direct flights. If you’re flying into a small airport, try to fly direct. That way, if there’s a delay, you don’t risk missing a layover flight. By choosing a direct flight, you put yourself in the best position to avoid flight delays. If a direct flight isn’t available, opt for a flight with a longer layover time to allow time for possible delays.
  • Review the airport’s on-time records. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation lets you search on-time statistics by flight number. Dig into the airport you’re considering to see if they have a strong record of having on-time flights.
  • Pay attention to the weather. While it’s impossible to control the weather, you can make logical decisions based on patterns and conditions. For example, you’re more likely to experience weather-related delays for flights routed through the Midwest or Northeast in January than you would be for a flight routed through the South.
  • Choose a small airport that’s easy to get to. Consider how challenging and costly your airport is to get to. If your preferred small airport is too far out of the way, it may be worth it to choose a larger airport that will be easier and less expensive to get to.
  • Be sure your small airport offers alternative flight routes, just in case. If you plan to fly into a small airport, be sure that airport offers other flight options to your destination if you experience a delay. At the very least, make sure it has a nice lounge that your travel credit card gives you access to so you can be more comfortable during long delays.

Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.

Methodology

ValuePenguin researchers analyzed flight arrival data at the 50th to 150th largest airports in the U.S. measured by total arriving flights. To rank the airports, researchers compared them across five metrics:

  1. Arrival delay rate (percentage of flights delayed by at least 15 minutes)
  2. Major arrival delay rate (percentage of flights delayed by at least 60 minutes)
  3. Average arrival delay (total minutes delayed divided by total flights)
  4. Cancellation rate at arrival destination (percentage of flights canceled)
  5. Average airfare (based on domestic itinerary fares; inflation-adjusted fares consist of round-trip fares unless the customer doesn’t purchase a return trip)

Researchers ranked each airport in each metric and then assigned each a score based on its average ranking. Average airfare was double weighted, major delay rate and cancellation rates were given a full weighting, and the delay rate and the average delay were half-weighted.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics data covers December 2020 to November 2021.

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This article originally appeared on ValuePenguin.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org

Image Credit: Meinzahn / iStock.

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