It’s the adventure of a lunchtime: racing to the airport, hustling through security, and getting launched 38,000 feet into the sky just to land a few miles away in the same country.
Big business trip? Visiting family? Or living it up with buddies? Whatever the domestic air passenger’s mission, state-hopping begins with a little extra intelligence gathering to score a hot ticket for a low price. Ticket costs vary considerably between airports – social competition, alternative routes and the diverse quality of experience offered from airline to airline mean that the most intuitive airport of departure is not always the cheapest.
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NetCredit hates to see consumers charged stratospheric prices for short- and medium-haul flights. So, we analyzed data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to identify the average cost of a flight from major airports around the country – and the nearby airports offering a cheaper route. We also balanced ticket prices against local salaries to see which states have the most affordable flights.
Choose an airport from our interactive comparison tool below to reveal nearby alternatives with a cheaper average ticket cost. And scroll on to see our findings mapped and the most and least expensive airports at a glance.
New Jersey is the State with the Cheapest Average Domestic Flight
We averaged the cost of a flight from the airports in our study at a state-wide level. The state with the costliest domestic flights in the US is West Virginia, with an average ticket pegged at $419.27. West Virginia lacks active ‘hub’ airports, so our prices are based on the state’s biggest airport, Yeager in Charleston. It is a small state, but West Virginia’s airports are also small and distanced enough to preclude more competitive pricing.
New Jersey has the cheapest average domestic flight cost ($205.60), and by a bigger jump than that which separates any other two states – second-cheapest Florida averages out at $257.36. The moderate cost of flying from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty airport ($301.78) is tempered by the super-cheap flights from Atlantic City International ($109.43). This airport is mainly served by Spirit Airlines, an “ultra low fare” airline claiming to run fuel-efficient flights to cut costs for passengers.
West Virginia Flights Most Expensive Compared to Local Income
Next, we compared average local pay to average domestic flight prices at a state level. Assessed this way, West Virginia again offers the worst deal, with the average ticket costing 11.09% of the average monthly paycheck. By contrast, Vermont is the state with the second-highest average ticket price but ranks seventh for affordability (9.29%), thanks to a stronger local economy and higher earnings.
At the other end of the scale, things are a bit more dynamic. New Jersey again delivers the best deal, with its ultra-cheap flights costing the equivalent of 3.87% of the local paycheck. However, the high wages of Washington and Massachusetts push them up into the top five most affordable states from which to take a domestic flight, despite ranking 35th and 29th respectively for ticket prices.
Florida Airports Dominate Top 10 Cheapest in US
Atlantic City Intl is the cheapest US airport in our study (see New Jersey is the State with the Cheapest Average Domestic Flight above). But Florida airports dominate our cheap list, making Florida the second-cheapest state on average. Florida was the most popular domestic destination search when the first Covid-19 lockdown struck and foreign vacations dropped off the menu. As a tourist hotspot, Florida has more hub airports than any other state, ensuring strong inter-airline competition.
Huntsville Intl in Alabama is the most expensive airport from which to take a domestic US flight. Traffic through this airport tends to take the form of smaller, less efficient planes. The city of Huntsville welcomes a lot of governmental travelers due to the dominance of aerospace and defense facilities in the area. These fliers rarely pay for their own tickets – so airlines don’t feel the demand for price competition.
Norman Y. Mineta San José Intl Among Most ‘Affordable’ Airports Despite $300+ Tickets
Finally, we compared the average ticket price at each airport to the average salary in that airport’s state to find which are most affordable. The bargain airports of Atlantic City and Orlando Sanford top the list, as they do in absolute terms of pricing. But Norman Y. Mineta San José Intl comes flying into the top 10, with Californians needing just 3.94% of the average monthly paycheck to buy the average $306.53 ticket.
The least affordable airports get more of a shake-up. Huntsville, the most expensive US airport, is not among the least affordable airports, thanks to the buoyant governmental salaries of the local workforce (see previous section).
McAllen Miller Intl leaps from eighth most expensive to number one least affordable, with its average fare costing nearly 12% of the average Texan paycheck. Unfortunately, there are no comparable airports within 150 miles of McAllen Miller, so price competition is minimal, and so are your alternative options.
Dress Comfy but Book Smart with Online Pricing Tools
While the first year of the pandemic saw ticket costs plummet, the resumption of old travel patterns has brought with it a price hike. But the prices in our study are only averages – which means it is often possible to find a cheaper way to your domestic destination. Remember the three golden rules of booking cheap flights:
- Book ahead using a price comparison tool – research shows the cheapest time to book is 64 days before flying…
- …but check third-party discount sites for last-minute reductions if a late booking is unavoidable.
- Be flexible – Skyscanner found that flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are cheaper than weekend bookings.
And pair these techniques with our flight cost index below to make sure you’re hunting for cheap prices at the most affordable nearby airport. Then pack up your lunch (to avoid an overpriced meal) and let the adventure begin.
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
To create these tables, we started by finding the most recent data about the domestic airline itinerary fares from the Bureau of Transport. Then, we pulled the data about average wage by states and MSAs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We kept the airports that are hubs according to FAA classification. We added Yeager Airport, even though it’s not a hub, since it is the largest airport in West Virginia. Although Wilmington Airport in Delaware restarted the commercial activity in 2021, we didn’t include it in the list since the operations are very limited and incomparable with hubs.
For every state, we found the median flight price among the airports of the state. After that, we calculated the affordability of average domestic flights in each airport and state as a % of monthly salary in each city/state and assigned nationwide and state ranks.
For the price comparison tool, we identified the nearest three airports with coordinates of each airport from the Federal Aviation Administration. We dropped the airports located farther than 150 miles.
The data was collected in January 2022.
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Featured Image Credit: DepositPhotos.com.