More than 7 in 10 U.S. airline passengers (72%) say ticket price is a key deciding factor when choosing an airport to fly into or from, according to a 2019 survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted online by The Harris Poll, among more than 1,800 U.S. adults who have ever flown on an airplane. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

More than 7 in 10 U.S. airline passengers (72%) say ticket price is a key deciding factor when choosing an airport to fly into or from, according to a 2019 survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted online by The Harris Poll, among more than 1,800 U.S. adults who have ever flown on an airplane. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

Choosing among airports? Don’t let price be your only guide

Before locking in a reservation, here are some other factors to consider.

By Robin Saks Frankel / NerdWallet

When booking a flight to a city with more than one airport, how do you know which one to choose? If you’re like a majority of Americans, you’re guided in part by your wallet.

More than 7 in 10 U.S. airline passengers (72%) say ticket price is a key deciding factor when choosing an airport to fly into or from, according to a 2019 survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted online by The Harris Poll among more than 1,800 U.S. adults who have ever flown on an airplane.

But travel experts suggest you shouldn’t decide based on ticket price alone. Before locking in a reservation, here are other factors to consider.

Availability of direct routes

Compare a direct flight against one with a layover. The latter might save you money, but cost you in comfort and convenience as you squeeze into a puddle-jumper and have to gate-check your carry-on.

“Living on the west coast of Michigan, we have a lot of choices of airports,” says Heather Houtman, a travel adviser and owner of Winsome Travel Design in Holland, Michigan, via email. Airports in Houtman’s region include Gerald R. Ford International in Grand Rapids, Capital Region International in Lansing, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County, and Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway International.

“What we consider is availability of direct flights, times of departures and arrivals, and least of all is price.”

On-time record

When you have choices among airports, one may be cheaper or more convenient to fly into — but what will it cost you in time? Some airports are notorious for late departures, “ground stops” that delay all arrivals, or both. The Bureau of Transportation lets you search on-time statistics by flight number.

For example, the 9:15 p.m. JetBlue flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, might be more convenient to your hotel than flights from LaGuardia to, say, Palm Beach International. But per Bureau of Transportation statistics, among flights with delayed arrivals of more than 30 minutes, that LaGuardia-to-Fort-Lauderdale route was the most consistently delayed flight in the U.S. in June 2019.

Security checkpoint wait times

If you’re on a tight schedule, the amount of time you’ll spend standing in security lines counts. Fortunately, there are tools that can help.

Say you’re flying out of Chicago and have a choice between O’Hare and Midway. You can download the Transportation Security Administration’s MyTSA app and see which one tends to have the shorter security line wait time for your travel window.

Keep in mind, too, that having Global Entry or TSA Precheck can help expedite the airport security process.

Getting to and from the airport

Even if you’re saving upfront on your ticket, factor in the expense and ease of getting from the airport to where you need to be. An airport a bit farther from the city center might cost less to fly to, but you may end up spending more time and money to get to your final destination.

When traveling to Washington, D.C., “I will always fly into Reagan over Dulles,” says Melissa Terrio, who travels several months of the year for her job as director of graduate recruiting and admission at the Foisie Business School in Worcester, Massachusetts. “By the time you get from Dulles into D.C., it’s more expensive in the end because there’s limited public transportation … and a taxi can be cost-prohibitive.”

The stress factor

When you have a choice between arriving at a bustling hub or a smaller regional airport, the latter option can be less stressful, says Melita Siemak, a travel adviser and owner of Pacific Heights Travel in Manhattan Beach, Calif ornia, via email.

Large airports can be overwhelming. Gates can be farther apart, lines can be longer, crowds can be bigger and louder.

“Sometimes smaller makes it easier to get through the airport,” Siemak says.

Second chances

What if your flight gets canceled or overbooked? It can be less of a problem if your departure airport has multiple options to get you to your destination in time for a business meeting or a bedtime story.

Someone trying to get to Cleveland after missing their flight from New York’s Kennedy Airport might be out of luck, as there may be only a handful of direct flights a day between JFK and Cleveland Hopkins International. But if you miss your flight from New York’s LaGuardia, there often are more nonstop options to that Cleveland airport, increasing your chances of catching a later plane.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

FILE - In this Tuesday, June 20, 2017 file photo a Boing 737 MAX 9 airplane performs a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France. Europe’s aviation regulator has taken a step closer to letting the Boeing 737 Max fly again. It published a proposed airworthiness directive on Tuesday that could see it clear the aircraft within weeks to resume flying after nearly two years and a pair of deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, file)
European regulator moves to clear Boeing 737 for flight

The move comes after the FAA already cleared the Boeing 737 Max earlier this month.

Diners Bonnie Breitman, left, and Casey McGan huddle near an outdoor gas fire as they eat lunch outside in a blustery wind Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, in Bellingham, Wash. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday announced tighter restrictions in the state in response to a flood of new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Restaurants and bars will again be limited to outdoor dining and to-go service, gyms, and some entertainment centers will be required to close indoor services. Retail stores, including grocery stores, will be ordered to limit indoor capacity and indoor social gatherings will be prohibited unless attendees have quarantined for 14 days or tested negative for COVID-19 and quarantined for a week. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
New shutdown expected to cost Washington restaurants $800M

The Washington Hospitality Association urged lawmakers to figure out ways to support hospitality businesses.

Burton Clemans, an employee at Sisters for 8 years, packages up a Sisters cookie on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Sisters closes, for now, as eateries enter another lockdown

The four-week ban on indoor dining has local restaurants pondering whether to shut their doors for good.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Inslee announced new restrictions on businesses and social gatherings for the next four weeks as the state continues to combat a rising number of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Inslee announces $135 million pandemic relief plan

The state will use CARES Act dollars to help businesses and people impacted by latest restrictions.

The AFK Tavern is closing up shop on Nov. 28 after 10 years due to their lease being up and the impact of COVID on November 15, 2020.  (Kevin ClAFK / The Herald)
Game over: After 10 years, last call at Everett’s AFK Tavern

The closing is due to COVID and the end of a lease. The owner hopes to reopen elsewhere in 2022.

Steve Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit in Washington, D.C., on March 5, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Zach Gibson.
FAA faces its own reckoning as it gives Boeing path to fly jet

The agency is devoting more time and resources to assess how pilots react to emergencies.

Middle-school counselor Shanon Baker poses for a photo in the school's library Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in Sammamish, Wash. A master's degree and a full-time job weren't enough to help Baker land an apartment she could afford in Seattle's east-side suburbs. But a $750 million commitment by a partnership backed in part by Microsoft's affordable housing initiative helped do the trick. Urban Housing Ventures is cutting rents at 40% of the units in three buildings as part of an effort to make sure teachers, nurses and other middle-income professionals can live in the communities where they work. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Microsoft-led housing effort cuts rents in Seattle suburbs

The plan is to help middle-income professionals live in the communities where they work.

The father of Bhavye Suneja, one of the pilots of a Lion Air plane that crashed in Indonesia, reacts as he leaves for the airport in New Delhi, India, on Oct.29, 2018. The pilot's mother, Sangeeta Suneja, says the FAA and Boeing are bringing the 737 Max back to service prematurely. (AP Photo, file)
Pilot’s mother criticizes FAA, Boeing for rushing Max’s comeback

Her son lost control of a Lion Air plane after an automated system repeatedly pushed its nose down.

Steve Hobbs
Democratic lawmakers ask Inslee to lift ban on indoor dining

They want to try to scaling back on occupancy before forcing an end to inside service.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. The FAA is poised to clear the Boeing 737 Max to fly again after grounding the jets for nearly two years due to a pair of disastrous crashes that killed 346 people. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
After 20-month grounding, FAA clears Boeing 737 Max to fly

U.S. airlines will be able to fly the plane after software is updated and pilots receive training.

Alicia Crank, chair of the Snohomish County Airport Commission, at Paine Field on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Everett, Washington. The Snohomish County-owned airfield is due to update the Airport Master Plan, considered a blue-print for long term development, anticipated land use and a requirement of the Federal Aviation Administration. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Time to update the airport’s master plan, and you can help

The new chair of the Snohomish County Airport Commission wants everyone to get acquainted with Paine Field.

Boeing 737 Max airplanes are parked at Boeing Field in Seattle on July 27, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by David Ryder
Once beloved Boeing is among titans headed for zombie status

Policymakers may inadvertently be directing the flow of capital to unproductive firms.