Why DIA Is a Bigger Bargain Than You Thought
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Why DIA Is a Bigger Bargain Than You Thought

While tourists during the busy summer travel season typically pay close attention to ticket prices, most don't consider costs related to the airports from which they're coming and going. But a new analysis shows that there are big differences in terms of expenses from one facility to another, with Denver International Airport winding up as one of the ten best big-city values in the country.

The numbers from "Emerging U.S. Airport Traffic Trends," a report accessible below, were crunched by Evergreen-based Boyd Group International, whose namesake, Michael Boyd, found previous looks at airport costs to be wanting.

"Airlines report a 10 percent sample of their tickets to the Department of Transportation, and the department takes those tickets, adds the fares and divides it by the number of tickets," Boyd explains. "But the problem is, there are all kinds of different tickets: one-way tickets, multi-leg tickets. So we get what people spend at airports on average, but we don't really understand the cost of air travel."

Something else that affects costs, he continues, "is how far people fly from the community. In Denver, the average is more than 1,000 miles for a one-way trip, but Midland, Texas, is 700. So we took a whole lot of different metrics and tried to compute it so we could figure out what people are really paying per mile adjusted for how far they fly."

At many of the least-expensive airports as judged by this methodology, Southwest Airlines has a large presence. DIA certainly qualifies in this respect — and other low-cost carriers, including Frontier, are also heavily represented at the airport. But the sheer numbers of travelers helps keep prices down, too.

"Denver has 400 flights a day, and that does matter," Boyd acknowledges. "Atlanta's usually called the biggest airport in the country, but Denver has significantly more passengers than Atlanta does. Over 60 percent of Atlanta's traffic is people connecting. They're basically walking across the hallway. But in terms of a to-and-from destination, Denver is bigger than Atlanta."

Indeed, the number of passengers at DIA per annum is currently around 8.17 million, as compared to 7.5 million for Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport — and Boyd points out that "Dallas-Fort Worth, which is a huge airport, only has about five million. That's why, when you exclude connecting traffic, Denver usually finishes in third, fourth, fifth place for passengers."

Air travel isn't cheap under any circumstances, as Boyd acknowledges. "I recently got a call from a big travel agency asking, 'What can consumers do to avoid high fares?' And I said, 'Stay home, for one thing.' Fares are fares. It's not a case of airlines ripping you off. They're just charging what they can, which is what gas stations and King Soopers do, too."

Still, DIA's per-mile cost is almost 10 cents less than at Honolulu International, the priciest of the fifty largest airports examined by the Boyd Group and a lot lower than at many landing spots in major U.S. cities. In Boyd's words, "When you look at the data, Denver has some of the lowest costs in the country."

Continue to count down the top fifty airports, ranked from the highest to lowest costs per mile; also included are average fare prices and trip lengths for each facility. They're followed by a link to the complete report.
50. Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii (HNL)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $290.15
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 2,049 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 24.69 cents per mile

49. Dulles, Virginia/Washington, D.C. (IAD)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $260.85
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,423 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 22.19 cents per mile

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
YouTube file photo

48. John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City (JFK)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $253.58
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,676 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 21.57 centers per mile

47. George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $251.19
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,106 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 21.37 cents per mile

46. Douglas International Airport, Charlotte (CLT)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $249.82
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 881 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 21.25 cents per mile

45. Newark International Airport (EWR)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $246.33
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,339 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 20.96 cents per mile

44. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $237.47
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,513 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 20.20 cents per mile

43. San Antonio International Airport (SAT)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $234.37
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,116 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 19.94 cents per mile

42. Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $231.13
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,187 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 19.66 cents per mile

41. Salt Lake International Airport (SLC)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $230.03
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1.158 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 19.57 cents per mile

40. Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $225.74
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,155
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 19.21 cents per mile

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
YouTube file photo

39. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $224.41
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,032 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 19.09 cents per mile

38. Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $222.61
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,126 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.94 cents per mile

37. John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $221.16
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 985 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.82 cents per mile

36. Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $220.50
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,161 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.76 cents per mile

35. Washington National Airport (DCA)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $219.53
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 991 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.68 cents per mile

34. Lambert International Airport, St. Louis (STL)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $219.49
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 966 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.67 cents per mile

33. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $218.28
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,537 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.57 cents per mile

32. Miami International Airport (MIA)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $218.07
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,277 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.55 cents per mile

31. Nashville International Airport (BNA)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $217.41
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 916 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.50 cents per mile

30. Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $216.90
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,047 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.45 cents per mile

29. John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana (SNA)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $212.90
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,051 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.11 cents per mile

28 (tie). Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $211.63
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,041 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.00 cents per mile

28 (tie). Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $211.59
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 978 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 18.00 cents per mile

26. Kansas City International Airport (MCI)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $211.39
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 979 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.98 cents per mile

Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
YouTube file photo

25. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $208.13
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,193 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.71 cents per mile

24. Indianapolis International Airport (IND)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $207.81
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,041 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.68 cents per mile

23. San Diego International Airport (SAN)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $206.69
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul):1,331 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.58 cents per mile

22. Seattle/Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $205.39
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,409 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.47 cents per mile

21. O'Hare International Airport, Chicago (ORD)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $204.54
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,042 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.40 cents per mile

Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport.
Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport.
YouTube file photo

20. Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $202.91
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul):895
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.26 cents per mile

19. Logan International Airport, Boston (BOS)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $202.29
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,301 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.21 cents per mile

18. New Orleans International Airport (MSY)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $201.39
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,030 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 17.13 cents per mile

17. LaGuardia Airport, New York City (LGA)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $198.08
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 963 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 16.85 cents per mile

16. Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $197.75
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,068 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 16.82 cents per mile

15. William B. Hobby Airport, Houston (HOU)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $197.49
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 915 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 16.80 cents per mile

14. Southwest Florida International Airport, Fort Meyers (RSW)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $197.38
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,187 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 16.79 cents per mile

13. Portland International Airport (PDX)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $196.96
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,300 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 16.76 cents per mile

12. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $196.94
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,069 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 16.75 cents per mile

11. General Mitchell International Airport, Milwaukee (MKE)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $194.15
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,117 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 16.52 cents per mile

10. Tampa International Airport (TPA)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $187.37
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,105 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 15.94 cents per mile

9. Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $186.21
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,131 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 15.84 cents per mile

Another angle on Denver International Airport.
Another angle on Denver International Airport.
File photo

8. Denver International Airport (DEN)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $180.78
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,068 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 15.38 cents per mile

7. Dallas Love Field Airport (DAL)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $177.85
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 869 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 15.13 cents per mile

6. San Jose International Airport (SJC)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $177.63
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 999 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 15.11 cents per mile

5. Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $175.76
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,136 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 14.95 cents per mile

4. Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $174.34
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,228 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 14.83 cents per mile

3. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $173.00
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 1,212 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 14.72 cents per mile

2. Chicago Midway Airport (MDW)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $172.52
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 930 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 14.68 cents per mile

1. Oakland International Airport (OAK)

Average Fare Including Federal Taxes: $161.37
Average Length of Passenger's Origin and Destination Trip (Length of Haul): 891 miles
Length of Haul Adjusted Cost: 13.73 cents per mile

Click to read the Boyd Group report "Emerging U.S. Airport Traffic Trends."

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