While booking holiday-time flights is an expensive endeavor even in a “normal” year, conditions in 2022 have conspired to create particularly astronomical airfare prices on flights for the festive season.
From the start of the year, rising fuel costs and overall economic inflation, along with the aviation industry’s notorious staffing shortages—resulting in widespread flight delays, cancellations and schedule cutbacks—have compounded to create serious headaches for American travelers.
Between the first and second quarters of 2022 alone, the national average cost of domestic airfare increased by almost 21 percent, from $328 to $397. Such a high rate of increase in pricing hasn’t been seen since 2014, according to a SmartAsset report released earlier this month.
Some U.S. cities have seen flight costs skyrocket at even higher percentage rates than the national average, as much as 30 percent. SmartAsset recently conducted a study analyzing pricing changes at the nation’s 100 busiest airports, which were identified using 2021 domestic passenger numbers.
Based on Bureau of Transportation Statistics data for Q2 2022, researchers compared airports across three metrics: average airfare cost, one-year percent change in airfare and the one-year dollar change in airfare. In each case, comparisons were drawn between the second quarter of this year and the same period one year earlier.
SmartAsset found these to be the 10 most expensive U.S. airports to fly from.
1. Madison, Wisconsin — Dane County Regional-Truax Field
Average fare: $526
Percent increase: 34.54 percent
Dollar amount increase: $135
2. Washington, D.C. — Washington Dulles International Airport
Average fare: $526
Percent increase: 33.06 percent
Dollar amount increase: $131
3. Birmingham, Alabama — Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International
Average fare: $503
Percent increase: 37.52 percent
Dollar amount increase: $137
4. San Francisco — San Francisco International
Average fare: $499
Percent increase: 28 percent
Dollar amount increase: $109
5. Greer, South Carolina — Greenville-Spartanburg International
Average fare: $490
Percent increase: 35.62 percent
Dollar amount increase: $129
6. Greensboro, North Carolina — Piedmont Triad International
Average fare: $486
Percent increase: 35.41 percent
Dollar amount increase: $127
7. Fresno, California — Fresno Yosemite International
Average fare: $474
Percent increase: 42.15 percent
Dollar amount increase: $140
8. Tucson, Arizona — Tucson International
Average fare: $470
Percent increase: 37.6 percent
Dollar amount increase: $128
9. Little Rock, Arkansas — Bill and Hillary Clinton Nat Adams Field
Average fare: $466
Percent increase: 36.22 percent
Dollar amount increase: $124
10. Pensacola, Florida — Pensacola International
Average fare: $462
Percent increase: 51.28 percent
Dollar amount increase: $157
While the price of flights may seem outrageously high right now, there are still tactics you can try to lock in lower fares. One of the main strategies is booking your trip as far ahead of time as possible.
Founder of travel consultancy Poses Travel & Co., Amanda Poses, advises booking your flight the minute you decide to take a future trip. “The sooner you book your flights, the less money you’ll spend,” she told CNBC Make It. In theory, booking far ahead of your actual departure date should secure the lowest prices on your seats well before demand for your flight increases.
Poses also recommends taking advantage of the option to check your luggage online before you arrive at the airport, if available. She said that, oftentimes, it’s less expensive to add a bag to your ticket purchase online than it is to check it in person.
In the same vein, Poses also suggests making solid arrangements in advance for as many aspects of your vacation as possible. “Even if your plans are booked, you should be booking transfers, dining and anything you want so you get the most value out of your trip,” she said.
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