Alternate Airports Drive A Little & Save Money and Time
Last year, while planning a family trip to Las Vegas,
I was hoping to find a decent airfare from my home airport,
Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, for cost-conscious consumers, Pittsburgh
is a hub for US Airways and fares tend to be much higher on routes
where there is no competition. Las Vegas happened to be one of those
routes, and the round-trip fare was $498 (plus tax)—a lot more than
I hoped to spend. Discouraged but determined to find the best deal,
I searched fares from the next closest airport, Cleveland. Because
Cleveland has discount carriers like Southwest and America West, the
fare was more than half off at $198 (plus tax). There was no
question the $260 savings per ticket made the hour-and-half drive
Budget and Time
Driving a short distance (under two hours)
to a nearby airport may mean cheaper tickets and even a more direct
flight. Alternate airports have grown in popularity over the years
because of the high demand for discount airlines such as Southwest,
AirTran, America West, and jetBlue. The very presence of these
airlines often means cheaper fares.
“Fares tend to be much
cheaper at alternative airports,” says Lucille Hirleman, CTC, owner
of Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, New Jersey. “Alternate airports
are a great alternative for my clients who are flexible enough to
drive a few hours. Sometimes the savings are so significant it
justifies spending money on a hotel room near the
Another thing to consider is air travel delays,
which are on the rise. Some of the country’s biggest airports are
straining under the load of increased passenger traffic, as well as
coping with unusual weather systems and other problems. The
congestion problem is becoming critical in the U.S, and alternate
airports are becoming a refuge from the chaos.
If you are
planning a trip, ask your travel agent if there is an alternate
airport you can use. If you’re buying airline tickets online, check
the list of airports before booking, or you can use Travelocity’s
enhanced best fare finder option that seeks out lower fares even at
major cities can support more than one airport, and by including
smaller airports in the mix, there are more options and even
less-expensive flights. The following is a list of alternative
airports for nine of the largest travel markets in the
Logan Airport, having
reached capacity, is often a commuting nightmare because of tunnel
traffic and ongoing construction in the area. On top of that, fares
aren’t always competitive with the area’s main alternative airports,
Manchester and Providence.
- Manchester Airport,
located 40 miles north of Boston, offers a new terminal, plentiful
parking, and lower fares—mainly because Southwest and MetroJet are
competing for business. In addition, the airport is host to eight
other major carriers.
- T.F. Green
Airport in Providence is only 45 minutes away from downtown
Boston. Like Manchester, Southwest and MetroJet compete
head-to-head for passengers, which offers travelers cheap fares
around the country. However, although the terminal is new, ongoing
construction often adds more time onto your airport commute. You
can check the airport’s website for construction updates.
Field, a small regional airport in Bedford, Massachusetts, is
only 20 miles northwest of Boston. The airport is serviced by new
upstart airline Shuttle America, which
offers discount fares to Buffalo, Greensboro, NC, Hartford, New
York City (LaGuardia), and Trenton,
O’Hare is the nation’s
busiest airport and is prone to delays on a daily basis. Two area
airports offer another path to the friendly skies.
- Midway, Chicago’s
secondary airport, offers some great fares with low fare airlines
like AirTran, American Trans Air (ATA), America West, Frontier,
MetroJet, National, Southwest, and Vanguard. Continued terminal
enhancements along with new parking garages make this terminal an
attractive alternative to O’Hare.
- Gary/Chicago Airport
is located on the South shore of Lake Michigan in Gary,
Indiana, a mere 30 miles south of Chicago. Regular jet service
around the country is available on Pan Am and Casino Express
Field, once Dallas’ main airport, was supposed to just go away
when the behemoth Dallas/Fort Worth Airport (DFW) opened in 1974.
However, the small and conveniently located airport just wouldn’t
die, mainly because it became the home base for Southwest Airlines,
America’s premier discount airline. In addition to Southwest, the
airport hosts four other airlines: American, Delta Connection (ASA),
and Continental Express. Because of an outdated rule called the
Wright Amendment, which was enacted to guarantee success for
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, airlines carrying more than 56 passengers
out of Love Field are limited to certain regional destinations in
Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and
Mississippi. Even with such rules, the airport has thrived as the
cheaper and more convenient alternative to DFW.
While Houston Intercontinental
is the city’s largest airport with worldwide access, the smaller Hobby
Airport offers service to 85 domestic cities on airlines such as
Southwest, American, Continental, Northwest, AirTran, and
Los Angeles offers a
buffet of choices for travelers who don’t want to deal with the
hassle of LAX, Los Angeles’ main airport. There are four airports
within a 50-mile radius of the city that offer plenty of low fare
- Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena Airport
is the closest airport to downtown Los Angeles. Travelers can
easily get to the airport using Metrolink or Amtrak. Airlines
serving the airport include Alaska, American, America West,
Southwest, and United.
- Long Beach
Airport is located between Los Angeles and Orange County and
offers service on America West and American.
- Ontario International
Airport, located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, boasts
a brand new terminal with extensive amenities. Airlines serving
the airport include Alaska, America West, American, Continental,
Delta, jetBlue (starting in June), Northwest, Southwest, TWA, and
- John Wayne
Airport is located in Orange County, 34 miles south of Los
Angeles, and offers modern facilities and plentiful parking.
Airlines serving the airport include Alaska, America West,
American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Southwest, TWA, United,
and US Airways.
International Airport is undoubtedly the biggest hub for connecting
flights to South America and the Caribbean, travelers to South
Florida may want to try the more easily accessible Ft. Lauderdale or
Palm Beach airports.
New York City/Newark/Long
Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, only 45 minutes
from Miami, is an easy highway commute and offers plenty of
parking. The airport provides service on most major airlines as
well as low cost carriers including AirTran, America West,
American Trans Air (ATA), jetBlue, MetroJet, Spirit, and
- Palm Beach
International Airport is located 71 miles north of Miami, and
like Ft. Lauderdale, offers easy access and discount fares. The
airport is served by most major airlines as well as low cost
carriers including jetBlue, Midway, MetroJet, Spirit, and
New York is the biggest travel market in the
world and offers three major
airports: Newark, JFK, and
LaGuardia. However, travelers may want to consider three other
alternative airports if not for price, but for the better on-time
performance and commuting convenience.
- Westchester County
Airport in White Plains is only 20 miles north of New York
City. The airport has a new terminal with an extensive parking
garage. For those not driving, it is only a 40-minute train ride
from New York City and a 10-minute cab ride from the train
station. Fares tend to be slightly higher, but on-time statistics
are better at this airport than the big three.
International Airport in Newburgh may seem far from the city,
but it is actually an easy 55-mile drive. There’s definitely less
stress than a traffic-logged cab drive to Newark or LaGuardia.
Stewart offers a new terminal and plentiful parking. It is served
by six airlines offering connecting service to many national and
Island Islip MacArthur Airport is 50 miles from New York City
and is the best option in the area for heavily discounted
fares—again due to Southwest Airlines presence. An hour’s drive
from the city, the terminal offers plenty of parking. Furthermore,
it is only a 25-minute train ride from Manhattan on the Long
Island Rail Road. Shuttle service leaves regularly from the train
station to the terminal.
Plagued by bad weather and inconvenient
runway placement, San Francisco International Airport is one of the
worst in the country for delays. It’s so bad that Southwest Airlines
is pulling out of the airport (effective March 5, 2001). With
Southwest leaving, fares are sure to rise. In addition, the
construction of the new terminal is making the commute to the
airport miserable. Thankfully, travelers can avoid the chaos by
using nearby airports in Oakland or San Jose.
International Airport, located directly across the bay, is
just a short commute over the Bay Bridge. Train alternative BART
(Bay Area Rapid Transit) offers a quick no-traffic commute with
its convenient airport station. Thirteen airlines serve the
airport, including discount carriers America West, jetBlue, and
Southwest. The terminal is undergoing a major expansion to offer
more modern facilities and additional parking.
- San Jose
International Airport is 30 miles southwest of San Francisco
and is served by most major airlines. In addition to being a short
drive from San Francisco, the airport has access to the BART
Washington area boasts three large airports: Dulles, National, and
International Airport (BWI). None of the aforementioned airports
qualifies as a small, alternative airport. Nonetheless, BWI offers
more cheap fares than Dulles or National. This is mainly due to two
discount airlines going head-to-head: Southwest and US Airways’
MetroJet. Ground transportation makes it very easy to circulate to
the various airports.
Road Trip To Runway
Using an out-of-the-way airport could be just
your ticket to cheap flights. Remember, an hour in the car is better
than a few hours on the runway. On the flip side, understand that
many alternate airports are now becoming as busy as the airports
they are replacing. Don’t assume that those airports offer the best
options or deals. Often times you’ll find better deals at the
airport everyone thinks is overcrowded and overpriced.
are out there. The key is to remain flexible. Attaining a deal means
being open to new possibilities like flying into Palm Beach when you
want to go to Miami or using San Jose when San Francisco is your
final destination. Is it out of the way? Yes. Is it less expensive?
More often than not, yes.
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