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DOT Stats: Cheapest, Most Expensive Airports

October 30, 2008 | Posted in: Uncategorized

Sorry, Cincinnati – but according to the Dept. of Transportation’s latest statistics, you were the most expensive airport to fly in or out of – based on second-quarter average fares.

The number-crunchers at the BTS looked at the top 100 airports, and found the highest fares at: Cincinnati, Ohio, followed by Greenville/Spartanburg, SC; Knoxville, TN; Madison, WI; and Grand Rapids, MI.

The lowest fares: Burbank, CA; Houston Hobby; Chicago Midway; Oakland, CA – and the lowest of all – Dallas’ Love Field, the home of Southwest. No surprise there.

Also noted in the BTS Press Release: Atlantic City, NJ, was not included in this report because of the discovery of “incorrect data” in a July report (Spirit Airlines misreported). I remember that report – and I made my concerns about that data known to DOT folks – when I wrote the following:

“This nonsense about Atlantic City being the cheapest city95+% of all traffic to/from Atlantic City is on Spirit Airlines which specializes in $9 fares and only has service from Tampa, Ft. Myers, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm and Myrtle Beach – hardly a representative sample for the cheapest city claim.” –Rick Seaney, FareCompare.com

I’ll be processing the raw data that generated these BTS stats over the weekend, to compare it with our history. And I’ll let you know what I find out.

2 Responses to “DOT Stats: Cheapest, Most Expensive Airports”

  1. John Putney says:

    Rick, if you’re going to call the BTS’s analysis “nonsense” in ACY, then you should take a closer look at the entire methodology. It’s simple averaging of fares which is not a robust method to analyze the presence & availability of low fares. You should call “nonsense” on DAL just as much as you do on ACY.

    The Southwest markets show up as the “cheapest” because they cap their highest fares at a level much lower than any other airline. Their could be a greater frequency of cheaper fares in non-Southwest markets but the average gets covered up by a few extremely high walk-up fares that the market supports. The whole “cheapest city” name is really a misleading analysis that isn’t helpful to consumers or carriers.

    Just my 2 cents…

  2. Rick Seaney says:

    Well John,

    I have spent many an hour the past 4 months downloading and analyzing the BTS 10% ticket sample (filed by airlines).

    As it turns out Spirit Airlines misfiled their airfares in Q1 (making Atlantic City the “cheapest”) and I made this known to the BTS – who to their credit noted in the Q2 press release they removed Spirit Airlines who evidently misfiled again in Q2 (I haven’t downloaded Q2 yet) and also noted that the Q1 press release with Atlantic City as the cheapest city had issues.

    Southwest changed the way it filed the 10% ticket sample the late 90′s (I have found several references to this in BTS literature) so comparisons of Southwest focus cities like Dallas Love (DAL) today compared to 10 years ago are useless (and they shouldn’t be putting it in their press release) — not to mention that 10 years ago numbers had free tickets and other data anomalies which make comparisons worthless.

    I agree with you that picking the “cheapest” and most “expensive” city using simple averages with less than stellar input data is not helpful for consumers or airlines (who use consultants to scrub this BTS data along with other sources like GDS [Global Distribution Sytems - Sabre, Amadeus, Galileo, Worldspan ...] ticketing information to get more accurate information).

    However Southwest no longer has it’s $300 self imposed one-way cap but certainly does have a preponderance of short haul “cheaper” (and lucrative) flights from Dallas (DAL Love Field) mainly because of the historical requirement for destinations within Texas and bordering states (no longer in place as connecting flights are now allowed country wide) ostensibly to protect DFW/International.

    Comparing “cheapest” and “most expensive” cities using this 10% ticket sample dataset with simple averaging when some cities are dominated by a particular airline (be it Southwest focus cities or network legacy airliens fortress hubs) as equals with other top 100 cities like Omaha doesn’t make any sense to me — but maybe someone can enlighten me.

    If you care to read deeper about the the BTS 10% ticket sample (and it’s plethora of issues) which is used by our policy makers to make important strategic domestic aviation decisions — take a gander at this document from the BTS (and if you want to look further at the public repsonse from the airline industry to this document which was less than supportive of the request to file all tickets which was proposed, instead of 10% — those ending in the number 0).


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