Holiday travel: Airfare has become more expensive at these airports, data shows

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(NEXSTAR) – With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, you may be thinking about your holiday travel plans. Travel experts are anticipating high demand and more expensive flights this season after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

A new report shows a ticket for certain airports may be more expensive than others.

Reviewing the latest data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the financial planning website SmartAsset recently ranked the nation’s busiest airports based on how expensive airfare has become over the last year.

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

Expensive fuel, staffing challenges, and high demand have all contributed to the rising costs. Though experts expect airline prices to cool soon, SmartAsset found that isn’t exactly the case so far at some airports.

SmartAsset reviewed the 100 busiest airports in the U.S. and compared them across three metrics: average airfare costs (specifically domestic one-way and round-trip tickets) for the second quarter of 2022, the percentage change compared to the same time last year, and dollar amount change in the average airfare.

Across those airports, SmartAsset found 45 have seen the average airfare rise by more than $100 over the last year. Though that may seem relatively small, for many airports, that’s an increase of more than 40%.

Airports in the West have seen the largest year-over-year price increases, including locations in California, Washington, Arizona, and Idaho.

Here are the 10 airports that have seen the largest increases in airfare between the second quarter of 2021 and 2022, as well as the percent and dollar amount changes, according to SmartAsset:

Rank Airport Percent Change Dollar Amount Change
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
7 Spokane International 41.61% $129
8 Tucson International 37.60% $128
9 Boise Air Terminal 43.29% $128
10 Detroit Metro Wayne County 41.64% $126

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

While airfare has climbed at all of the airports SmartAsset reviewed, prices haven’t risen 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 last year, rising just $7.

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

Rank Airport Percent Change Dollar Amount Change
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 San Jose International 14.16% $43
92 LaGuardia 16.36% $45
91 Orlando Sanford International 24.74% $29

The price changes may seem stark but some of the jumps are due to the cheaper airfare seen during the pandemic. Experts note some of the prices we’re seeing now are still lower than we had in the months leading up to the pandemic.

Though the “sweet spot” for getting the best prices on holiday airfare has passed, there are some days that are better to fly on than others around Thanksgiving and Christmas, travel guides say.

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