Airport Booking Strategy Cities

The 10 Best (and Worst) Airports for Cheap International Flights

A new report from Scott’s Cheap Flights sheds light on a somewhat complicated travel question: Which cities are the best origin for booking affordable, international flight routes? When it comes to finding the best airports for cheap flights, there are a lot of factors at play: Steady demand, competitive service from multiple carriers, and a robust network of international flights are just a few.

Scott’s Cheap Flights analyzed its own flight deals data for the findings. The company “looked at commercial international airports in metro areas with a population of at least one million people, and collected data on how many deals we sent … for cheap flights departing from each airport in the past year.”

The Top Airports for Cheap Flights

There are no huge surprises here, except perhaps that three Florida airports make the list. Also unsurprising is that the list is dominated by coastal cities—O’Hare is the only airport located in the middle of the country to make this list—which generally offer better proximity to a wider range international destinations.

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The cities listed here are also big draws for international visitors. Orlando’s massive theme parks have a lot to do with the airport’s inclusion here, and cities like New York, D.C., and San Francisco are major destinations for both tourism and business.

  1. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  2. Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  3. Washington Dulles International Airport
  4. Miami International Airport (MIA)
  5. O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  6. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  7. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  8. Logan International Airport (BOS)
  9. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  10. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

The Deal Deserts

On the flip side, the list of the “worst” airports for cheap flights is rife with smaller cities—but not just midwestern ones. The theme here is not so much the location of the airport, but the absence of a robust route network and/or a lack of competition. Scott’s Cheap Flights points out that “while passengers can travel internationally from each of these airports with a connection (and many of these airports are labeled as ‘international airports’) not all of them actually offer direct international flights. The lack of direct flights typically translates to a lack of competition, and thus a lack of deals.”

Also of note, several entries here are fairly close to airports from the best list, including Albany, Milwaukee, and Long Beach. It’s difficult for smaller airports like these to compete with major international hubs that essentially service the same area and population—but there may be an alternative option. Greensboro (GSO) is the worst, with Panama City (ECP) taking second-worst.

  1. John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) in Columbus
  2. Mitchell International Airport (MKE), Milwaukee
  3. Will Rogers World Airport (OKC), Oklahoma City
  4. Louisville International Airport (SDF)
  5. Long Beach Airport (LGB)
  6. Albany International Airport (ALB)
  7. Norfolk International Airport (ORF)
  8. Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), Grand Rapids
  9. Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), Panama City
  10. Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) in Greensboro

Readers: Where is your preferred departure point for international flights?

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the Boston travel guide.

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