Is your airport a rip-off?

Forbes has an interesting article out about America's rip-off airports, which is a must read if you're going to be traveling any time soon. Even if you already know if an airport near you is a good or bad deal, the list can be surprising. I sure didn't need to be told that the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport was expensive, but it was slightly eye-opening to know that it's the worst rip-off in America.

I've been driving about two hours away to the Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis airports for years, because my flights have been at least a hundred dollars cheaper by going elsewhere.

In any case, for those who are wondering, the five biggest rip-off airports in America are:
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (average fare: 48 cents per mile)
  • Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan (average fare: 41 cents per mile)
  • Tri-Cities Regional Airport, in Johnson City, Tennessee (39 cents per mile)
  • Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, South Carolina (39 cents per mile)
  • Duluth International Airport in Duluth, Minnesota (38 cents per mile)
For comparison's sake, the authors point out that at some of the cheapest airports in the nation, like the one in Fort Lauderdale and California's Long Beach/Daughtery Field Airport, you can fly for an average fare respectively of 16 and 15 cents per mile.

That said, the article, which came out this week, may already be outdated. The Cincinnati airport has long been known in the area for having notorious prices due to being a hub for Delta, which has kept competition away. Perhaps it was just timing, or maybe it shows the power of the press, but just about the time the Forbes article came out, Delta announced that they're slashing fares, depending on the destination, from 5 percent to 60%t.

Wanting more information about air fares, I contacted my travel agent, Indianapolis-based Julie Sturgeon, who I wrote about once in WalletPop, and asked her what tends to drive up the price of flights. Sturgeon, who has a blog and travel agency called Curing Cold Feet, said that much of the problem comes with the contracts that the airports get into with the ground crews, but if someone wanted to really do some digging, they should check out this handy dandy frequently asked question page about air fares put up by the Mobile Regional Airport.

They offer a heap of insight into the problem, but the basic thrust that drives airport fees can be summed up in one word, a word that makes a lot of sense when you think about it: "Competition."
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