Frequent fliers know how tough flying can be these days. After all, delays are commonplace, especially at the nation’s largest and busiest airports. So what’s a traveler to do?
Well for starters, avoid the country’s busiest airports.
We’ve told you about the best alternative airports in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco. But in cities like Boston, Dallas, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC, there are more options for alternate airports than you might think.
But don’t take our word for it, here’s Peter on the subject:
Boston’s Logan International Airport has long been the subject of derisive jokes by Boston’s traveling public—most of which are not appropriate for a family-friendly site. Fortunately, Boston-area travelers now have not one, but two great alternate airports that you can try.
The airports at Manchester (MHT) and Providence (PVD) (it’s actually TF Green in nearby Warwick) have solid on-time percentages, and both are just about an hour outside of the city. In fact, depending on where you’re staying, they might even be closer than Logan.
True, Logan is better served by Boston’s mass transit system with the Blue Line running right by the airport (you’ll take a shuttle to your terminal from there). But Manchester and Providence have better on time records and if you’re renting a car, it’s an easy drive into Boston from either airport. Plus, you can catch the RIPTA shuttle to downtown Providence, and then catch the MBTA commuter rail into Boston if you fly in on weekdays. Also, there are plans to extend the rail service directly to the airport in the near future.
Or, if you fly into Manchester, the airport provides the Manchester Shuttle into Boston free of charge to ticketed passengers—the shuttle operates every two hours; 24-hours a day; seven days a week between the airport, the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn, MA and the Sullivan Square MBTA Subway Station. These services aren’t as regular as the public transportation from Logan, but it may be worth it if you can avoid the crowds and arrive on time.
If you are driving, recent commenters have pointed out that between Manchester and Providence, Manchester has covered parking, easier rental car drop offs, less traffic, and a more scenic drive.
- Boston Logan (BOS) – 75 percent on time, 126 unique destinations
- Manchester, NH (MHT) – 80 percent on time, 46 unique destinations (52 miles from downtown Boston)
- Providence, RI (PVD) – 80 percent on time, 51 unique destinations (60 miles from downtown Boston)
Dallas’ Love Field (DAL) may be the most fought-over alternate airport in American aviation history. For years, American Airlines and Southwest have battled over the fate of Love Field, with American arguing it should be shuttered in favor of DFW (where it has a hub), while Southwest argues that the flight restrictions currently in place should be lifted.
Southwest recently won the battle, and is launching flights to cities that were once off-limits thanks to the infamous Wright Amendment (which restricted flights from Love to a handful of nearby states). Love Field is now getting a makeover thanks to Southwest, with new charging stations, flat-screen TVs, additional seating, and tables with power outlets for laptops.
Love Field will never have the numerous connections of DFW, which is now the busiest airport in the country after Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago’s O’Hare, but it now has at least some of its amenities. But its best amenity—accessible, on-time flights—is one DFW may never match.
- Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) – 71 percent on time, 177 unique destinations (21 miles from downtown Dallas)
- Dallas Love Field (DAL) – 78 percent on time, 56 unique destinations (6 miles from downtown Dallas)
Washington, D.C. has a bevy of airports to choose from, all with similar on-time percentages and many of the same airlines serving them. Dulles International (IAD) is usually thought of as the go-to airport, as most it has the largest number of unique destinations and is an international airport.
However, with slightly higher on time records and a number of flights by low-cost carriers, both Baltimore (BWI) and Reagan (DCA) are good alternatives. BWI may be a bit further out of the way and DCA is a smaller airport, but all three DC area airports have similar ground transportation options, with bus or Metro service, shuttles, taxis, and rental cars, so it is not difficult to get to and from the city.
Midwest, Air Tran, Northwest, and US Airways serve both DCA and BWI. Southwest Airlines flies into BWI, while Frontier and Spirit Airlines service DCA. IAD also offers flights from low-cost carriers.
The great thing about DC’s airports is that they offer similar services, so it’s all a matter of shopping around for the best deal. The choices offered, on time records, and possible savings BWI and DCA offer make them worth looking into anytime your travels take you to or from the Washington DC area.
- Washington DC Dulles International (IAD) – 74 percent on time, 134 unique destinations (30 miles from DC city center)
- Baltimore, MD (BWI) – 77 percent on time, 94 unique destinations, 56 miles from IAD (34 miles from DC city center)
- Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA) – 77 percent on time, 91 unique destinations, 30 miles from IAD (3.2 miles from DC city center)
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport recently won the dubious distinction of America’s most expensive airport for travelers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Thanks to Delta’s dominant position at the airport and the dearth of low-cost carriers, competition is scarce, driving up prices. So if you’re in the area—don’t put up with it.
There are a number of airports that are fairly close, including Dayton (DAY) and Louisville (SDF) that are good alternatives. But if you really want to avoid overpriced tickets, the airport for you is Columbus International (CMH).
Granted, Columbus is a good two hour drive from Cincinnati, but the savings are usually worth it. After all, Columbus is the home base of ultra-low-cost carrier Skybus. With its $10 fares to about a dozen destinations, Skybus makes Columbus airport competitive in a way that Cincinnati simply can’t match. Plus, Columbus also boasts Southwest, Midwest, and JetBlue, providing further competitive pressure and low-cost options.
- Cincinnati (CVG) – 78 percent on time, 120 unique destinations (14 miles from Cincinnati city center)
- Columbus International (CMH) – 77 percent on time, 60 unique destinations (114 miles from Cincinnati city center)
- Dayton (DAY) – 82 percent on time, 33 unique destinations (66.5 miles from Cincinnati city center)
- Louisville (SDF) – 79 percent on time, 63 unique destinations (105 miles from Cincinnati city center)
Departure date used for determining number of unique destinations: 12/21/07
By Kaitlyn Voyce and Matt Calcara for PeterGreenberg.com.
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