FinanceBuzz looked at average domestic airfares from the 45 busiest airports in the U.S. to learn which airports are best for travelers on a budget, as well as which ones to avoid if you are trying to travel affordably.
Overall, the national average airfare cost rose slightly, increasing by 0.30% from 2020 to 2021. Adjusted for inflation, this is the first time since 2014 that the average airfare cost has increased year over year.
Least-expensive and most-expensive airports to fly from
For this report, we compared domestic airfares from the 45 busiest airports in the U.S. using data published by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Least expensive airports
For the first time since 2018, Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) — formerly known as McCarran International Airport — does not have the most affordable airfare in the country.
That honor instead goes to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the average fare to depart was $233.36. The second cheapest airport to fly from is also in Florida — Orlando International Airport (MCO) had an average fare of around $241.01.
Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) is still one of the most affordable places to fly out of in the country, coming in third with an average fare of $247.53. These were also the three most affordable airports to fly out of in last year’s rankings, just in a different order.
Most expensive airports
On the other end of the spectrum, the three most expensive airports on the list are Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Washington, D.C., San Francisco International Airport (SFO), and Detroit Metro Airport (DTW).
Both Dulles and San Francisco International had average fares in excess of $400, while Detroit Metro’s average fare cost $366.33. The average fare at these three airports is an incredible $150 more than the average fare at the three least expensive airports.
Biggest changes in airport cost
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C., saw the biggest positive jump in our rankings, rising 15 spots to reach number 24 on our list.
Across the 45 busiest airports in the country, the average fare cost actually rose by $33.61 from 2020 to 2021, so even though costs at Ronald Reagan increased by $13.41, the airport was still able to rise in the rankings (becoming relatively less expensive) because of how much smaller that fare increase was compared to the rest of America’s busiest airports.
It is worth noting that of the airports evaluated, only one — Miami International Airport (MIA) — saw fares decrease in the last year, dropping by just $2.06.
San Diego International Airport (SAN) fell the farthest in our rankings compared to last year, tumbling down 17 places. San Diego went from 21 to 38 thanks to an average fare increase of $69.75. That was the second-biggest price increase on our list, behind Portland International Airport (PDX), where fares increased by $75.56 on average.
|Cost rank||Airport||State||Passenger volume rank||Avg airfare||$ change vs. previous year||Cost rank change|
|1||Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL)||FL||17||$233.36||$18.49||1|
|2||Orlando International Airport (MCO)||FL||9||$241.01||$25.08||1|
|3||Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)||NV||13||$247.53||$37.58||-2|
|4||Miami International Airport (MIA)||FL||22||$263.76||-$2.06||8|
|5||Tampa International Airport (TPA)||FL||21||$270.88||$10.97||6|
|6||Chicago Midway Airport (MDW)||IL||31||$271.84||$37.20||-2|
|7||Dallas Love Field (DAL)||TX||35||$278.31||$18.82||3|
|8||Oakland International Airport (OAK)||CA||41||$279.15||$29.13||-3|
|9||New Orleans International Airport (MSY)||LA||42||$281.04||$27.34||-2|
|10||LaGuardia Airport (LGA)||NY||19||$289.65||$9.74||8|
|11||Nashville International Airport (BNA)||TN||29||$292.70||$21.74||5|
|12||Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)||OH||39||$295.22||$38.59||-4|
|13||Denver International Airport (DEN)||CO||4||$295.80||$42.99||-7|
|14||Chicago O'hare International Airport (ORD)||IL||2||$309.70||$32.81||3|
|15||San Jose International Airport (SJC)||CA||40||$310.74||$54.03||-6|
|16||Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)||TX||24||$310.99||$25.40||6|
|17||Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)||AZ||8||$312.37||$31.62||2|
|18||Baltimore / Washington International Airport (BWI)||MD||23||$313.50||$46.08||-4|
|19||Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)||OH||44||$313.71||$47.66||-6|
|20||Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL)||MO||33||$316.16||$15.05||13|
|21||Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)||NC||32||$317.89||$29.07||4|
|22||Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)||PA||46||$325.72||$32.87||7|
|23||Atlanta International Airport (ATL)||GA||3||$327.99||$28.75||9|
|24||Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)||DC||27||$329.17||$13.41||15|
|25||Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)||NJ||5||$331.69||$25.80||9|
|26||Honolulu International Airport (HNL)||HI||38||$332.77||$36.39||5|
|27||Sacramento International Airport (SMF)||CA||30||$333.16||$50.42||-7|
|28||John Wayne Airport (SNA)||CA||45||$334.43||$9.16||NEW|
|29||Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)||TX||18||$334.98||$10.48||12|
|30||Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP)||MN||14||$338.11||$29.35||5|
|31||Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)||TX||7||$338.24||$14.74||9|
|32||Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)||PA||15||$340.07||$46.96||-2|
|33||Indianapolis International Airport (IND)||IN||37||$340.29||$53.74||-10|
|34||Kansas City International Airport (MCI)||MO||36||$342.63||$33.81||2|
|35||Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA)||WA||6||$346.47||$59.51||-11|
|36||Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)||MA||10||$347.43||$56.90||-9|
|37||Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)||CA||1||$350.25||$58.84||-9|
|38||San Diego International Airport (SAN)||CA||20||$352.58||$69.75||-17|
|39||Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)||UT||25||$356.30||$26.74||3|
|40||Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT)||NC||28||$356.60||$21.33||3|
|41||John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)||NY||11||$360.94||$16.59||4|
|42||Portland International Airport (PDX)||OR||26||$364.40||$75.56||-16|
|43||Detroit Metro Airport (DTW)||MI||16||$366.33||$52.54||-5|
|44||San Francisco International Airport (SFO)||CA||12||$400.66||$62.55||0|
|45||Dulles International Airport (IAD)||DC||43||$408.08||$28.92||NEW|
Lowest average airfare:
- Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
- Orlando International Airport (MCO)
- Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Tampa International Airport TPA)
Highest average airfare:
- Dulles International Airport (IAD)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Detroit Metro Airport (DTW)
- Portland International Airport (PDX)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Biggest jump in rankings:
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (up 15 spots)
- Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (up 13 spots)
- Bush Intercontinental Airport (up 12 spots)
- Atlanta International Airport
- Newark Liberty International Airport
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (up 9 spots)
Biggest drop in rankings:
- San Diego International Airport (down 17 spots)
- Portland International Airport (down 16 spots)
- Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (down 11 spots)
- Indianapolis International Airport (down 10 spots)
- Boston Logan International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport (down 9 spots)
Biggest cost increase vs. previous year:
- Portland International Airport ($75.56)
- San Diego International Airport ($69.75)
- San Francisco International Airport ($62.55)
- Seattle/Tacoma International Airport ($59.51)
- Los Angeles International Airport ($58.84)
How to save when you fly
While it's interesting to look at average airfares to understand how airports compare cost-wise, it's important to remember these are just averages. As you plan your travel, you'll find costs can vary widely at a single airport. With a little research and smart planning, you can find a deal at any airport.
Here are a few tips to save on airfare:
- Timing isn't everything, but it's still important. Airfares fluctuate week to week — and even day to day. By monitoring airfares for your upcoming trip, you can buy when prices drop. You can track prices using an app such as Hopper or set up a price alert on Google Flights.
- If your travel plans are flexible, sign up for cheap flight alerts from a site such as Scott's Cheap Flights or Dollar Flight Club. You'll get emails whenever the website finds a cheap fare, and if the deal looks enticing, you can book the bargain flight using instructions in the email.
- Another way to save on airfare is to use credit card points to book your travel. The sign-up bonus alone on some of the best travel credit cards is enough to earn you a free flight (or two). For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card currently offers a 60,000 point sign-up bonus worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
We looked at 2021 airfare data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation on April 12, 2022 to compare domestic airfares by origin city. This report calculated average fares based on domestic itinerary fares.
"Itinerary fares" consist of round-trip fares unless a return trip was not purchased, in which case the one-way fare was used. Fares are based on total ticket value, including the price charged by the airline plus any additional taxes and fees levied at the time of purchase. Fares include only the price paid at booking and do not include fees for optional services like baggage fees. Averages also do not include frequent-flyer or “zero fares” or a few abnormally high reported fares.
Airports with the “New” designation in the overall rankings table are new entries onto the list of 45 busiest airports in the country by passenger volume. The two new airports, Dulles International Airport (IAD) and John Wayne Airport (SNA), replaced San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and Hobby Airport (HOU) from 2020.