Vacation travel: Plane tickets have become more expensive at these airports, data shows

(NEXSTAR) — With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, you might be thinking about your vacation travel plans. Travel experts anticipate strong demand and more expensive flights this season after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

A new report shows that a ticket for some airports can be more expensive than others.

Looking at the latest data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, financial planning website SmartAsset recently ranked the nation’s busiest airports based on airfare prices over the past year.

Data from BTS shows that nationally, the average airfare during the second quarter of 2022 rose to $397 from $338 at the start of the year. While this is up from the average price of $295 seen during the second quarter of 2020, when air travelers were limited by COVID, it is lower than the average price of $406 that travelers saw at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic.

Expensive fuel, staffing issues and high demand have all contributed to higher costs. Although experts expect airline prices to drop soon, SmartAsset has found that hasn’t exactly been the case so far at some airports.

SmartAsset reviewed the 100 busiest airports in the United States and compared them on three metrics: average airfare costs (specifically one-way and round-trip tickets) for the second quarter of 2022, percentage change from the same period last year, and dollar amount change in average airfare.

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At these airports, SmartAsset found that 45 of them saw the average airfare increase by more than $100 over the past year. While this may seem relatively small, for many airports this is an increase of over 40%.

Western airports saw the largest year-over-year price increases, including California, Washington, Arizona and Idaho.

Here are the 10 airports that saw the largest airfare increases between the second quarter of 2021 and 2022, along with percentage and dollar changes, according to SmartAsset:

Rank Airport Percent change Changing the dollar amount
1 Pensacola International 51.28% $157
2 Fresno Yosemite International 42.15% $140
3 Seattle/Tacoma International 49.18% $144
4 Los Angeles International 42.22% $133
5 Bozeman Yellowstone International 43.27% $134
6 Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International 37.52% $137
seven Spokane International 41.61% $129
8 Tucson International 37.60% $128
9 Boise Terminal 43.29% $128
ten Detroit Metro Wayne County 41.64% $126

At three airports – Dane County Regional in Madison, Wisconsin; Washington Dulles International; and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International – average airfares have risen to over $500. Two other airports were not far behind: San Francisco International’s average airfare is $499 while Greenville-Spartanburg International’s is $490.

While airfares have increased at all airports examined by SmartAsset, prices have not increased drastically everywhere. At two airports, the average airfare remains below $150: St. Pete Clearwater International and Orlando Sanford International.

The average airfare at Kahului Airport in Hawaii has changed the least over the past year, increasing by just $7.

Here are the 10 airports that saw the smallest changes to their average fare:

Rank Airport Percent change Changing the dollar amount
100 Kahului Airport 2.40% $7
99 St Pete Clearwater International 10.03% $13
98 Ellison Onizuka Kona International at Keahole 4.25% $12
97 bob hope 8.22% $22
96 Metropolitan Oakland International 10.81% $30
95 Long Beach Airport 14.26% $36
94 Buffalo Niagara International 13.10% $41
93 Norman Y. Mineta International of San Jose 14.16% $43
92 The Guardian 16.36% $45
91 Orlando Sanford International 24.74% $29

The price changes may seem significant, but some of the jumps are due to cheaper airfares seen during the pandemic. Experts note that some of the prices we are seeing now are still lower than what we had in the months leading up to the pandemic.

Although the “sweet spot” for getting the best deals on holiday plane tickets has passed, there are days when it’s better to fly than others around Thanksgiving and Christmas, travel guides say.


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