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Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this story misstated the period covered by air traffic figures for Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport. This version has been corrected.

BWI fares among nation's cheapest; Dulles ranks as seventh most costly

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a part of the Transportation Department, released a tally that lists BWI as the nation's 16th-cheapest airport.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a part of the Transportation Department, released a tally that lists BWI as the nation's 16th-cheapest airport. (Marvin Joseph/the Washington Post)
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By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A new government tally of average airfares at the nation's largest airports shows that Dulles International Airport is one of the most expensive for passengers, while Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport ranks among the cheapest.

The fares seemed to be luring travelers increasingly to BWI and its low-cost carriers, as the airport on Monday announced that June was the second-busiest month in its history.

Only six of the 100 busiest airports had steeper average fares than Dulles, where the average fare was $413, while BWI ranked 16th-cheapest, with an average fare of $277. Huntsville, Ala., topped the most-expensive list, with an average fare of about $500, followed by airports in Charleston, S.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Memphis.

Atlantic City is the nation's cheapest airport, with the average ticket costing about $188, followed by Long Beach, Calif.; Burbank, Calif.; and Orlando. The rankings, released last week by the Transportation Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics, looked at data for the first quarter of 2010.

The nearly 2.1 million commercial passengers flying through BWI's terminals in June represented a 9 percent increase over the same period last year and marked the airport's second-busiest month; August 2001 maintains the top spot. Southwest Airlines accounts for more than half of the airport's market share, and the airline saw a nearly 15 percent increase in flights in and out of BWI from the previous year.

BWI's other low-fare carriers, AirTran and JetBlue, have also recorded year-to-year increases, fueled in part by families and leisure travelers taking advantage of summertime deals, said Rick Seaney, chief executive of the airline price Web site FareCompare.com. "There's no doubt that the . . . low-cost airlines at BWI are bringing in families who are willing to drive to get the savings," Seaney said.

Debby McElroy, executive vice president of the Airports Council International-North America, also noted that business travelers are more price-conscious in down economies.

Nationwide, flights were 5 percent cheaper than they were at the beginning of 2001, though slightly higher than a year ago. And while rates at Dulles remained high, they've fallen 20 percent since that year.

About 17.5 million commercial passengers flew in and out of National from June 2009 through May of this year, a 1 percent decrease. The figure at Dulles remained steady at about 23 million.

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