FinanceBuzz looked at average domestic airfares from the 45 busiest airports in the U.S. to learn which airports budget-conscious travelers will want to frequent — and which they may want to avoid.
Overall, the national average airfare cost fell just over $60 in 2020 versus 2019, from $352.27 to $292.20. Using inflation-adjusted dollars, this is the lowest average airfare cost we've seen when looking back all the way to 1995.
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.
McCarran Airport in Las Vegas (LAS) tops our list with the cheapest fares for the third year in a row. The average fare to depart from LAS was just $209.95. Next in our ranking are two Florida airports, Fort Lauderdale Hollywood Airport and Orlando Airport. The average airfare from these two airports comes in right around $215.
Compare that to the three most expensive airports on our list: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, San Francisco International Airport, and Charlotte/Douglas Airport. The average ticket from these cities comes in over $335, a whopping $120 more than what it costs to fly from our three least expensive airports.
The nation's two busiest airports, Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL), fall in the middle of the pack. LAX comes in at number 28 with an average fare of $291.41, and Atlanta is number 32 on the list with a ticket price just shy of $300 at $299.24.
Newark airport saw the biggest jump in ranking — going up 10 places to number 34 on our list. Between 2020 and 2019, average airfares dropped $101.32 at this busy airport. On the other hand, Raleigh-Durham saw the biggest decline in our rankings though airfares were still down versus the previous year. Raleigh-Durham fell 10 places from 15 to 25 in our cost rankings and saw airfares decline by a relatively modest $40.78.
|Cost Rank||Airport||State||Passenger Volume Rank||Avg Airfare||$ Change vs. Previous Year||Cost Rank Change|
|1||Mccarran International Airport (LAS)||NV||13||$209.95||-$33.10||0|
|2||Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL)||FL||17||$214.87||-$42.74||1|
|3||Orlando International Airport (MCO)||FL||10||$215.93||-$35.82||-1|
|4||Chicago Midway Airport (MDW)||IL||31||$234.64||-$76.07||5|
|5||Oakland International Airport (OAK)||CA||44||$250.02||-$45.89||0|
|6||Denver International Airport (DEN)||CO||3||$252.81||-$47.67||1|
|7||New Orleans International Airport (MSY)||LA||37||$253.70||-$41.72||-3|
|8||Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)||OH||40||$256.63||-$59.55||2|
|9||San Jose International Airport (SJC)||CA||38||$256.71||-$39.20||-3|
|10||Dallas Love Field (DAL)||TX||36||$259.49||-$60.20||1|
|11||Tampa International Airport (TPA)||FL||22||$259.91||-$48.57||-3|
|12||Miami International Airport (MIA)||FL||25||$265.82||-$69.52||6|
|13||Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)||OH||43||$266.05||-$61.61||1|
|14||Baltimore / Washington International Airport (BWI)||MD||21||$267.42||-$57.22||-2|
|15||Hobby Airport (HOU)||TX||41||$269.28||-$70.00||8|
|16||Nashville International Airport (BNA)||TN||29||$270.96||-$65.30||3|
|17||Chicago O'hare International Airport (ORD)||IL||4||$276.89||-$68.00||9|
|18||LaGuardia Airport (LGA)||NY||19||$279.91||-$54.47||-2|
|19||Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)||AZ||7||$280.75||-$68.02||8|
|20||Sacramento International Airport (SMF)||CA||30||$282.74||-$52.10||-3|
|21||San Diego International Airport (SAN)||CA||18||$282.83||-$44.77||-8|
|22||Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)||TX||27||$285.59||-$53.93||2|
|23||Indianapolis International Airport (IND)||IN||35||$286.55||-$74.15||8|
|24||Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA)||WA||6||$286.96||-$49.55||-4|
|25||Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)||NC||33||$288.82||-$40.78||-10|
|26||Portland International Airport (PDX)||OR||23||$288.84||-$49.57||-4|
|27||Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)||MA||9||$290.53||-$47.20||-6|
|28||Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)||CA||1||$291.41||-$65.15||2|
|29||Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)||PA||42||$292.85||-$63.03||-1|
|30||Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)||PA||16||$293.11||-$77.54||6|
|31||Honolulu International Airport (HNL)||HI||39||$296.38||-$47.51||-6|
|32||Atlanta International Airport (ATL)||GA||2||$299.24||-$71.25||3|
|33||Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL)||MO||32||$301.11||-$66.02||1|
|34||Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)||NJ||8||$305.89||-$101.32||10|
|35||Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP)||MN||12||$308.76||-$58.33||-2|
|36||Kansas City International Airport (MCI)||MO||34||$308.82||-$56.18||-4|
|37||San Antonio International Airport (SAT)||TX||46||$311.73||-$44.68||-8|
|38||Detroit Metro Airport (DTW)||MI||14||$313.79||-$64.24||1|
|39||Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)||DC||26||$315.76||-$56.44||-2|
|40||Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)||TX||5||$323.50||-$79.07||2|
|41||Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)||TX||20||$324.50||-$82.40||2|
|42||Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)||UT||24||$329.56||-$46.69||-4|
|43||Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT)||NC||28||$335.27||-$76.61||2|
|44||San Francisco International Airport (SFO)||CA||11||$338.11||-$59.05||-4|
|45||John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)||NY||15||$344.35||-$57.96||-4|
Lowest average airfare:
- Mccarran International Airport (LAS)
- Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
- Orlando International Airport (MCO)
- Chicago Midway Airport (MDW)
- Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Highest average airfare:
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (CLT)
- Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
- Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
Biggest jump in rankings:
- Newark Liberty International Airport (up 10 spots)
- Chicago O'hare International Airport (up 9 spots)
- Hobby Airport (up 8 spots)
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (up 8 spots)
Indianapolis International Airport (up 8 spots)
Biggest drop in rankings:
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport (down 10 spots)
- San Diego International Airport (down 8 spots)
San Antonio International Airport (down 8 spots)
- Boston Logan International Airport (down 6 spots)
Honolulu International Airport (down 6 spots)
Biggest cost drop vs. previous year:
- Newark Liberty International Airport (-$101.32)
- Bush Intercontinental Airport (-$82.40)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (-$79.07)
- Philadelphia International Airport (-$77.54)
- Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (-$76.61)
How to save on airfare
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 like 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 like 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 currently offers a 100,000 point sign-up bonus worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
We looked at 2020 airfare data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation on April 20, 2021 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.