A recent review of Department of Transportation reports by ConsumerReports.org indicates that the average prices of airlines tickets at smaller, secondary airports (Colorado Springs versus Denver, for example) have gone up and prices at larger airports has gone down.
Apparently, larger airport hubs are luring customers back from the competitive regional airports. Bigger airports have begun streamlining the travel experience by opening more gates, reducing delays and convincing discount airlines like Southwest and JetBlue to do business at their airports.
What does this mean for you?
The price of a domestic ticket at O’Hare in the last quarter of 2010 averaged $372, down 12% from the same price in the last quarter of 2000. Over the same period, the average price of a domestic ticket at Midway, Chicago’s regional airport, increased by 25% instead.
Although flights are still cheaper at Chicago’s smaller airport, the gap in price differences has reduced considerably because larger airports and the larger airlines are able to reduce costs in order to offer cheaper tickets. Airline mergers – often seen as the impetus for higher ticket prices – can reduce congestion and delays at airports too. Industry consolidation such as this can mean a reduction in the regional airlines and losses at regional airports, which can mean less competition and the potential for higher ticket prices.
Luckily for many travelers in the U.S., regional airports seem to be holding their own so far.