The most expensive airfares in the country are at Washington Dulles airport, followed by San Francisco, Detroit, Portland and New York JFK. That’s according to Department of Transportation data for 2021. They tend to be either expensive airports with limited competition (New York JFK is slot-controlled) or dominated by a single airline without as much ultra low cost competition as those on the other end of the list.
Among the 45 busiest airports, the places with the cheapest airfare are Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas and Miami. These are all busy airports with plenty of leisure traffic in destinations that have been open throughout much of the pandemic. The first three feature a heavy presence by ultra low cost carriers, while Miami – a high cost airport – has seen increasing ultra low cost carrier penetration.
Here are the 45 largest airports ranked from lowest average airfare in 2021 to highest fare:
|Rank||Airport||Avg Fare||Fare vs 2020|
|10||New York LGA||$289.65||$9.74|
|31||Dallas Fort Worth||$338.24||$14.74|
|39||Salt Lake City||$356.30||$26.74|
|41||New York JFK||$360.94||$16.59|
Chicago Midway is dominated by Southwest Airlines, and affordability is driven by carrier and passenger mix for the alternative airport to O’Hare. A siimilar situation prevails at Southwest’s base at Dallas Love Field, and with fewer business travelers among Southwest’s customers than in prepandemic times. Tampa has seen significant interest in the past couple of years as virtually any flight to Florida could be filled.
I’m surprised to see Austin in the top third of this list, despite having a significant presence from Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit. There are simply more passengers than the airport’s infrastructure supports and gates in the main Barbara Jordan terminal are well-utilized.
I wonder how much 2021 data (what the DOT has to report on at this point) will be indicative of 2022, as airfares have gone up broadly. I’ve been seeing some $1500 advance purchase roundtrip coach tickets recently on non-premium cross country routes, albeit involving one of the most expensive airports on this list (San Francisco).
The airports that have had the biggest gains in affordability are Washington National, St. Louis, Houston Intercontinental, Newark and Dallas – Fort Worth. The airports The airports that have jumped the most in unaffordability are San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Boston. The biggest year-over-year cost increases were Portland ($75.56 higher average fare), San Diego ($69.75 higher average fare) and San Francisco ($62.55 higher average fare). That’s all before the bulk of the Omicron wave after which airfares have shot up markedly.