Cities with the Best and Worst Airfare Prices

Cincinnati is a wonderful town for culture (Cincinnati Art Museum), for learning (Xavier, University of Cincinnati) and, for fun (Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Zoo). Not so wonderful are the airfares to get you there. According to the government’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (, in the fourth quarter of 2011, Cincinnati ranked No. 1 for highest average airfare. Again.

Listen as airfare analyst Rick Seaney explains what these airfare ratings really mean (and which city you should visit despite the high airfare):

Why is Cincinnati CVG and not CIN?

Top Five Highest Airfare Cities

Here are the top five cities and their average airfare prices:

  1. Cincinnati – $502
  2. Houston (Bush) – $494
  3. Memphis – $484
  4. Washington, D.C. (Dulles) – $474
  5. Newark – $474

In comparison, the average airfare price for all U.S. airports in the quarter was $368.

[Keep reading below – for the five cities with the lowest airfares]

Top Five Lowest Airfare Cities

These are bottom five cities, with the lowest average airfares:

  1. Atlantic City – $189
  2. Long Beach – $229
  3. Las Vegas – $267
  4. Ft. Lauderdale – $269
  5. Bellingham – $271

So what’s the big difference between the two groups of cities?

Find out if your expensive airport at least offers free Wi-Fi

Business vs. Leisure Travel

One big thing that distinguishes the high and low end of this scale is the type of traveler it attracts. In the first group headed by Cincinnati, a lot of these passengers are business travelers who typically pay the most for airfare.

The destinations headed by Atlantic City are favored mostly by leisure travelers heading for vacation.

Less Competition Means Higher Airfare

Other differences may include higher airport taxes which get passed along to passengers, but a big reason is lack of competition as a result of capacity cutting and/or mergers which has been the case at Cincinnati.

Try Airport Alternatives

Some travelers work around this by flying into a city near their ultimate destination. For example instead of flying directly to Cincinnati, some passengers opt for nearby Dayton or even Columbus or Indianapolis. Travelers to Dulles might opt for Washington Reagan or the relative bargain flights of nearby Baltimore.

Airport Price Trend: Which City is Up, Which City is Down

The BTS report also notes an 11-year pricing trend detailing which cities’ airfares are on the rise and which are decreasing.

Largest increases from 2000 to 2011: Burbank, Reno, El Paso.

Largest decreases from 2000 to 2011: White Plains, Bellingham, Long Beach. Denver was close behind.


Published: May 1, 2012