Reports

The Best and Worst US Airports for Cheap Domestic Flights in 2021

By
Scott's Cheap Flights
|
SCF Team
April 9, 2021
|
8 min read

At Scott’s Cheap Flights, we know cheap flights. It’s kind of our thing. Our team spends hundreds of hours every week searching for flight deals departing from 168 US airports. 

In mid-2020, we expanded our service to include domestic flights and since then we’ve sent more than a thousand domestic deals to our members with prices as low as $27 roundtrip—and no, that’s not on Spirit. We don’t send any deal that doesn’t pass our Bestie Test, which means no brutally long layovers or terrible airlines with lots of extra fees. Our members save an average of $200 (and often a lot more) on each domestic trip. 

Of course, we can only send our members the deals available, and some airports simply see more frequent flight deals than others. Factors like the amount of airlines serving the airport and the amount of competition on routes from that airport can affect how frequently deals pop up. 

To help members find more deals, we ran the numbers to see which airports offer the most frequent deals on domestic flights—and which major airports offer the least. We looked at commercial airports in metro areas with a population of at least one million people, and collected data on how many deals we sent to Scott’s Cheap Flights members for cheap domestic flights departing from each airport in the previous six months. 

Here are the results.

It's important to note that this list is not permanent, but reflective of the past six months when the pandemic really threw airfare through a loop. Next year's list may look considerably different.

If you’re a Premium member and you live near one of the best airports, you probably receive 3-5 domestic deals from us each week. But, if you live near one of the worst, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck overpaying for domestic flights. Beneath each of the “worst” airports, we give you the lowdown on how you can score more—and better—domestic flight deals without moving to a new city.

The Best US Airports for Cheap Domestic Flights

Premium members who fly from one of our top ten airports receive an average of 3-5 deals from each airport per week. 

But even if your home airport isn’t in the top ten, it may still be a sweet spot for deals. 

New Orleans (MSY), Seattle (SEA), Phoenix (PHX), Houston (IAH), Philadelphia (PHL), Nashville (BNA), Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Portland (PDX), and Miami (MIA) are just a few of the airports where we reliably find a few domestic deals per week. Even airports further down the list like Cleveland (CLE) and Boise (BOI) generally get at least a deal or two per week, on average. 

One glaring omission: no single NYC-area airport made the top ten. Nor did any in DC. However, if we were to combine all the deals we sent to NYC as a region, it certainly would be among the cities that receive the most deals. 

10. Las Vegas (LAS)

Number of deals in past 6 months: 93

Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (soon to be renamed Harry Reid International Airport) is the busiest US airport that doesn’t operate as a hub for any of the three US legacy carriers (Delta, United, or American). It is a base for Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Spirit Airlines, but of those airlines, the only one we send our members deals on is Southwest. 

Still, the popularity of Vegas as a vacation destination ensures the airport offers enough routes (188 direct domestic routes, which is among the most of any airport further up our top ten list) and is served by enough domestic airlines (12 carriers) that it remains competitive and deals are frequent. 

Sample past deals departing LAS: 

9. Atlanta (ATL)

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 95

This may be news for any Atlanta resident who has lamented how Delta’s monopoly on the airport stifles competition, but ATL actually gets a ton of great domestic deals—especially during Covid. In the Before Times, it was more rare for airlines to discount prices out of airports where they dominated over competitors, but in an effort to boost sales, airlines have been more likely to drop prices even on routes with little competition. 

ATL was the world's busiest airport by passenger traffic from 1998 to 2019, and the busiest airport in the US, and there are direct flights to 148 routes around the US. In addition to being a hub for Delta (which pre-Covid, flew more than 1,000 daily flights from the airport) it’s also a focus city for Frontier Airlines and Southwest. 

Sample past deals departing ATL: 

8. Orlando (MCO)

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 96

As the gateway to Disney World, it’s not surprising that MCO is the busiest airport in Florida and tenth-busiest airport in the United States, with 11 domestic airlines serving 85 direct domestic routes. It’s a hub for Silver Airways, an operating base for JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit Airlines, and a focus city for Frontier Airlines—and all that competition helps keep the deals coming. 

Sample past deals departing MCO: 

7. Detroit (DTW)

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 97

Detroit’s ranking may be a surprise to some, but Michigan’s busiest airport actually sees quite a few domestic deals. DTW is a major hub for Delta and a base for Spirit. In total it’s served by 8 domestic airlines offering direct flights to 106 destinations across the US. And when you can’t get there in one hop, connections in Chicago, Atlanta, Vegas, and others offer up even more options. 

Sample past deals departing DTW: 

6. Dallas (DFW)

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 100

Dallas has a lot going for it when it comes to the frequency of domestic deals. It’s the largest hub for American Airlines, the third-busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements, and the tenth-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic. It’s served by 8 domestic airlines offering direct flights to 190 US destinations. Plus, with Southwest operating out of nearby Dallas Love Field (DAL), there’s a bit of extra competition that helps increase the occurrence of great deals. 

It’s worth noting though: As with Atlanta, some of the domestic deals we saw out DFW, were on the hub airline, in this case, American. Covid put a lot of pressure on airlines to reduce the fares across the board. In normal times, it is more rare to see the hub airline lead the way in slashing fares out of their own hub. 

Sample past deals departing DFW: 

5. Denver (DEN)

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 103

With 12 domestic airlines offering direct service to 189 US destinations, DEN is the fifth-busiest airport in the US by passenger numbers. It’s a hub for both United Airlines and Frontier Airlines and a base for Southwest Airlines so you can get just about anywhere in the US with one stop or less and the competition between airlines helps keep prices low and deals frequent. 

Sample past deals departing DEN: 

3. Austin (AUS) - tie

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 106

While Austin is the fourth-largest Texas city by population, its airport is now the third-busiest in the state (after Dallas and Houston). Though it only offers direct flights to 56 destinations, the relatively high number of domestic airlines that fly from the airport (11) helps it punch above its weight. And the presence of airlines like Southwest, JetBlue, and Alaska all help create competitive pricing. 

Sample past deals departing AUS: 

3. Minneapolis (MSP) - tie

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 106

With 12 domestic airlines serving 119 destinations with direct flights, MSP is the largest and busiest airport in the Upper Midwest. It’s a major hub for Delta, and the home airport for Minnesota-based Sun Country Airlines. And while we don’t send SCF members deals on Sun Country, the competition created by the low-cost carrier is partially to thank for helping to make deals on other carriers a frequent occurrence. 

Sample past deals departing MSP: 

2. Chicago (ORD)

Number of deals in the last 6 months: 109

As the 6th-busiest airport in the US, a major hub for both United Airlines and American Airlines, and focus city for Frontier Airlines and Spirit, it’s not surprising that Chicago ranks highly on our list. 

Eleven domestic airlines serve 189 domestic destinations directly, plus a little bit of competition from nearby Midway Airport (MDW) doesn’t hurt. While Southwest dominates the game at MDW, it’s also recently launched service out of ORD which should continue to keep a downward pressure on domestic prices and ensure the deals don’t stop anytime soon.

Sample past deals departing ORD: 

1. Los Angeles (LAX)

Number of deals in the past 6 months: 114

Any Premium member based out of LA won’t be surprised to hear it’s shaping up to be the best spot to score frequent domestic deals. The third-busiest airport in the world and the second-busiest airport in the US, it’s a hub or focus city for more airlines than any other airport in the US. It’s a hub for Alaska, American, Delta, and United and a focus city for JetBlue and Southwest. 

In total, LAX is served by 12 domestic airlines offering direct flights to 113 destinations across the US. Plus, with other airports nearby to choose from (ONT, SNA, BUR, and LGB) all that competition helps drive down deal prices and make fare drops more common. 

Sample past deals departing LAX: 

chart of the best airports for domestic flight deals.

The Worst US Airports for Cheap Domestic Flights

Members who fly out of the worst airports on our list might only receive one domestic deal per month—but it’s not all bad news. Most of these airports have alternate airports within about two hours, so you can greatly increase the number of deals you have access to if you’re willing to drive a bit. 

9. Panama City (ECP) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 11
  • Alternate airports: Tallahassee (TLH), Pensacola (PNS)

Panama City was the first international airport in the US designed and built after the September 11 attacks, but it’s actually only international in name. The airport only serves domestic flights, with just 4 airlines offering 17 direct flights to destinations in the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Midwest. If you want to go any farthest west than Denver, you’ll have at least one connection. 

To score more deals, consider flying out of Tallahassee (TLH) or Pensacola (PNS), which are each about two hours away. Scott’s Cheap Flights members in Tallahassee received 8 deals in the last 6 months, while members in Pensacola received 12. Alternatively, if you’re looking to travel across the country, it may be worth it to book a small hop to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or Atlanta, and then book your cross-country flight from there. 

Sample past deals departing ECP: 

9. Albany (ALB) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 11
  • Alternate airport: Syracuse (SYR)

Another “international” airport that only serves domestic destinations, Albany is served by 7 airlines offering direct flights to 21 destinations, mostly on the East Coast (the farthest direct destination is Denver). 

To find more deals, check flights out of Syracuse, which is about two hours away (SCF members received 13 deals departing SYR in the last 6 months). It can also be worth the savings to drive, take a train, or book a short flight to NYC and open up hundreds more opportunities for cheap flights. 

Sample past deals departing ALB: 

8. Harrisburg (MDT)

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 10
  • Alternate airport: Philadelphia (PHL)

Domestic-only Harrisburg airport is served by 5 airlines flying directly to 15 destinations mainly on the East Coast and in the South and Midwest (Dallas is the farthest city reached by direct flight).  

To score dozens more deals to spots all around the US, look at flights out of Philadelphia, about two hours away. In the last 6 months, SCF members received 86 deals flying out of PHL. 

Sample past deals departing MDT: 

6. Rochester (ROC) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 9
  • Alternate airports: Buffalo (BUF), Syracuse (SYR) 

Upstate New York’s domestic-only Rochester airport is served by 6 airlines offering direct flights to 19 destinations, mostly in the east and south of the US (the farthest nonstop destination is Minneapolis). 

You can increase your chances of snagging a great domestic deal by checking out flights from Syracuse (13 deals in the past 6 months) and Buffalo (15 deals in the past 6 months) which are both under 90 minutes away from Rochester. 

Sample past deals departing ROC:

6. Providence (PVD) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 9
  • Alternate airport: Boston (BOS)

Tiny Providence offers a few more options than some of the other airports on this list, with 8 airlines offering direct flights to 19 domestic destinations in the South and Midwest (the farthest west you can fly direct is Minneapolis). 

But the better news is that Boston is only about an hour away and members who fly from that airport received 85 deals in the last 6 months, so there are still plenty of chances to snag great deals around the US. 

Sample past deals departing PVD: 

4. Daytona Beach (DAB) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 8
  • Alternate airport: Orlando (MCO)

Daytona Beach may be one of the most limited airports on this list. It’s served by just two airlines (American and Delta) which only offer direct flights to four airports all year round (PHL, CLT, ATL, DFW) plus seasonal flights to NYC and Toronto.

Thankfully all is not lost. It’s only one hour to Orlando, which received about 12 times the number of deals, so members based near DAB can still score plenty of cheap domestic flights with a short drive. 

Sample past deals departing DAB: 

4. Jackson (JAN) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 8
  • Alternate airport: New Orleans (MSY)

Mississippi’s largest airport unfortunately doesn’t offer a lot of options. The domestic-only airport is only served by five airlines with ten direct destinations in the south, east, and Midwest. 

The busiest routes are to connecting hubs like Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas, and Houston, so you can look for cheap flights from one of those cities and then book a separate positioning flight to get there. Or, look at flying from New Orleans, which is about 2.5 hours away and received 91 deals in the last 6 months. 

Sample past deals departing JAN: 

1. Peoria (PIA) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 5 
  • Alternate airports: St. Louis (STL), Chicago (ORD)

Peoria in Central Illinois is served by just 3 airlines, with direct flights to 13 destinations. Technically it’s tied by number of deals with what would be our #2 and #1 worst spots, but we think it’s a bit better as the destinations are an eclectic mix of big cities like Vegas, Phoenix, and Orlando, as well as smaller spots like Destin and Rapid City. 

Keep an eye out for flights from Chicago (which you can reach from Peoria in one hour via plane or three hours byc ar), which was on our list of best cities, or St. Louis, which received 79 domestic deals in the last 6 months. 

Sample past deals departing PIA: 

1. Manchester-Boston (MHT) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 5  
  • Alternate airports: Boston (BOS)

Domestic-only Manchester-Boston airport is another one with limited options. Technically it’s tied for first by number of deals with our Peoria and our other worst spot but we think it falls in the middle of those two as it has fewer direct options than Peoria but more than the #1 worst airport (and there’s a better option very close by). It’s served by just 3 airlines with direct flights to 9 destinations and the farthest away you can go nonstop is Chicago, Orlando, or Tampa.

There’s good news though. The much-larger Boston airport is just an hour away and gets more than 15 times the number of deals. 

Sample past deals departing MHT: 

1. Corpus Christi (CRP) - tie

  • Number of deals in the past 6 months: 5
  • Alternate airports: San Antonio (SAT)

Technically a three-way tie with Peoria and Manchester by number of deals, Corpus Christi takes the top spot because service from the airport is extremely limited. In fact, it’s served by just three airlines and there are only two places you can fly direct; Houston and DFW. To get anywhere else in the US, you’ll have at least one connection. 

The good news is that once you’ve reached Houston or Dallas, the country opens up, as DFW is one of the best airports for cheap domestic flights and IAH isn’t far out of the top ten. And if you’d prefer to drive to your connection, there’s always San Antonio just two hours away. Its airport received 76 deals in the last 6 months. 

Sample past deals departing CRP: 

chart of worst airports for domestic deals.

Methodology

Using a combination of technology and human-powered flight searching, the Flight Experts at Scott’s Cheap Flights look at thousands of possible airfare deals every week. Not all deals meet our standards (for example, flights on certain airlines like Spirit or Frontier, flights with inconvenient layovers, or flights with illogical routing). 

To reach our conclusions on the best and worst airports, we first determined our list of airports. We only looked at (1) commercial airports, (2) airports that serve metro areas of more than 1 million people, and (3) the 168 US airports we serve at Scott’s Cheap Flights. 

Once we had our list of airports, we tallied up the total number of domestic deal emails we sent to members departing from those airports between September 2020 and February 2021. The airports that received the highest number of domestic deals were deemed to be the best airports for cheap domestic flights. And the airports that received the lowest number of domestic deals were deemed to be the worst airports for cheap domestic flights.

Join Scott's Cheap Flights and get incredible deals delivered right to your inbox. Members save an average of $200 per domestic flight, and $550 on international trips.

Last Updated 
April 9, 2021
The Best and Worst US Airports for Cheap Domestic Flights in 2021
Scott's Cheap Flights
SCF Team

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