Which Offer the Cheapest Flights: Large Hub Airports or Small Airports?

There are numerous factors that go into determining airfare to and from specific airports. And while it may sound reasonable that larger airports would offer the cheapest airline tickets, it is not always the case. In some cases, huge airports are among the most expensive – in others, small regional airports are very inexpensive. So how do you know which airports give you the best bang for your buck?

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In general, smaller regional airports tend to be more expensive for three reasons:

  1. They sometimes have high surcharges and landing fees
  2. There is very little airline competition in the region
  3. Low-cost airlines do not fly there

But don’t write off smaller airports, because there are some significant exceptions that allow you to save money when you search for the cheapest flights.

Cheapest and Most Expensive Airports Today

Three of today’s cheapest airports are actually smaller ones: Long Beach, Burbank and Milwaukee. Some of the more expensive airports can be larger ones including JFK, Miami International and Los Angeles (LAX) though this can vary depending on where you fly and on what airline. In fact, of the top 10 busiest airports in the U.S., only one of them – Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) – is among the 50 most affordable airports.

Compare Fares for Cheapest Flights

What should you do if you live near an expensive airport? Often, looking at the big hub airports closest to you, finding a great fare and driving there is your best bet. Of course you should factor in the cost of driving (or taking a shuttle service, if one is available) and parking when calculating your total outlay. For example, if you live in Huntsville, Alabama (a small airport that happens to be expensive), you might compare fares out of Birmingham as well – it could make a difference to you.

Find out the Top 10 Reasons to Compare Airfare

The Bottom Line: Although larger airports tend to have the cheapest flights, often there is no rhyme or reason as to whether you are better off flying out of a larger airport or a smaller airport. The best thing you can do is shop around, weigh your options and sign up for FareCompare alerts. You never know when airfare to your favorite destination will drop.

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Published: August 22, 2012