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Where the (every day) cheap air fares are


According to the Bureau of Transportation and Statistics (BTS) domestic air fares earlier this year experienced the largest percent decline since 2002. With summer in our rear view mirror, the prospects of a slow economic recovery and a decrease in airline capacity many experts believe prices have stabilized. Still, there are everyday deals out there  -- you just have to know how to select the right destination. The following suggestions should improve your odds.

Destination selection tips

America Airline's Fortress Hub at Dallas-Ft.Worth

1. Trips to business markets and fortress hub destinations generally cost more. A fortress hub is a large airport dominated by one carrier. American at Dallas-Ft. Worth, Continental at Houston Intercontinental and Delta at Cincinnati are examples. In these markets the dominant carrier provides non-stop service to points throughout the nation. This level of service allows the carrier to maintain pricing power.  

2. Pick a destination that is served my multiple carriers (ideally both major and low cost carriers). Carriers like Air Tran, Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue, Virgin America, Spirit and Allegiant have taken market share from major carriers by introducing lower fares throughout America. This doesn’t mean they always offer the lowest fares. Major carriers will compete on price to preserve market share. One example is Philadelphia. This airport was once a fortress hub for US Air, but in the past year the average fare has dropped 30% in part due to Southwest Airline's expansion into this market. Austin, Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale are three examples of markets with a healthy mix of major airline and LCC competition. 

3. Select a destination with multiple airports. Below are the average itinerary fares for Houston (at the bottom), New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. area. As you can see, the fares vary greatly by airport. If you are flexible check the fares to alternative airports, you could save you a bundle. Add ground transportation costs (taxi, car rental, public transportation, etc) to your air fare to compare the total cost among airport alternatives. 


Source: Bureau of Transportation and Statistics

The lowest (and highest) average fares in America

Of the top 100 airports ranked by originating passengers, the most affordable destinations are Long Beach, Oakland, Burbank, Dallas (Love Field) and Las Vegas. Conversely, the most expensive airports are Huntsville, Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, Savannah and Des Moines. Below are the top 30 from both ends of the spectrum. It’s should not shock you that many of the high average fares come from fortress hubs or markets with little competition. 

Source: Bureau of Transportation and Statistics

The best time to travel

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a low period for air travel. During this time both business and leisure travel drop significantly. In an attempt to generate bookings airlines open their inventory to their lowest fares. But don’t buy a ticket too soon...we’re still in a recession after all! There is likelihood even lower/sale fares will emerge between 60 and 21 days to departure – especially in markets with lots of competition. Of course, the only thing less rational than air fares are trying to predict them, buyer beware and happy trails!

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