Planning a summer vacation? Cheapest airfare may not be the closest airport

CLEVELAND - Taking a vacation this summer? You may want to look beyond Northeast Ohio to find deals on flights.

Just like gas prices at the pump, airline prices are skyrocketing and gas is just one reason why. According to the latest government statistics, the average domestic air fare was $340 in the third quarter of 2010. That's up 10.7 percent from a year prior. In 2011, air fares have continued to increase.

Airlines have cut back on flights, and you'll find more flying at full capacity. If you're flying and looking for a deal, you may want to look for flights early in the morning to save the most money. Also, look at non-peak days. Thursdays are very busy travel days, so you probably won't find the best bargain on a Thursday. Tuesday's are a better alternative if you have a flexible schedule.

Also, be flexible with the city you're departing from. The airport closest to your home may not offer the best fares, and the savings can really add up if you're willing to drive a bit.

On Sunday, May 8 at 11 p.m. we'll unveil the savings we found at nearby airports. We're not just talking about Akron/Canton. We're talking about Detroit and Pittsburgh. You can save hundreds of dollars per person if you're a flexible traveler.

We compared flights from Cleveland, Akron/Canton, Detroit, and Pittsburgh to eleven cities. We looked at big cities like Boston and New York and smaller ones like Tampa and Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman is a popular flight option if you're visiting Yellowstone. We searched for June, July, and August fares to the eleven cities. To keep the test fair, we searched for June fares on the same day, and all the July fares on the same day and so on since fares change so often.

Here's a sneak peak at our research, with more findings and money saving tips to be revealed May 8 at 11 p.m.
 

Flight Cost Comparisons
Check out the cost differences of flying out of Cleveland or Arkon/Canton versus other nearby cities.
  Departing: Cleveland Departing: Akr/Ctn Departing: Pittsburgh Departing: Detroit Flight Type
Arrive: BOSTON $355 $259 [ $149 ] $411 Non-stop
Arrive: BOZEMAN $653 [ $426 ] $587 $497 1 Stop
Arrive: CHARLESTON,SC $446 [ $298 ] [ $298 ] $550 Non-stop
Arrive: HOUSTON [ $238 ] $299 $379 $404 1 Stop
Arrive: LAS VEGAS $496 $431 $334 [ $328 ] 1 Stop
Arrive: LAS VEGAS $438 N/A [ $320 ] $369 Non-stop
Arrive: LOS ANGELES $448 $398 $411 [ $300 ] 1 Stop
Arrive: LOS ANGELES $469 N/A [ $405 ] N/A Non-stop
Arrive: NYC - LGA $359 $255 [ $199 ] $267 Non-stop
Arrive: MIAMI $327 $397 [ $198 ] $286 1 Stop
Arrive: MIAMI $491 N/A N/A [ $279 ] Non-stop
Arrive: MILWAULKEE $444 $258 [ $218 ] $268 Non-stop
Arrive: SAN FRANCISCO $488 [ $381 ] $416 $421 1 Stop
Arrive: SAN FRANCISCO $519 N/A [ $405 ] N/A Non-stop
Arrive: TAMPA $295 [ $269 ] N/A N/A Non-stop
Arrive: TAMPA $268 $291 [ $232 ] $239 1 Stop

Data comparison is for July 14-18, 2011 (Thursday-Monday)
Compiled using Kayak search engine & southwest.com
Search conducted March 31, 2011.
Lowest price for each flight denoted in brackets [ ] & green color, most expensive is in red.

 

We also analyzed historical data for Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Akron. We pulled the data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). The data tracks the price of airfares back to 1995.

In 1995, Cleveland had the lowest fares among the three airports. The average Cleveland fare was around $297. The fares in Pittsburgh were $100 more expensive at $398.37, and the average fare in Akron / Canton was $339.42.

Cleveland fares didn't drop much since 1995. They never got lower than $285.

Since 1995, Cleveland prices have mostly been on the rise.

Pittsburgh prices spiked for awhile in the late 90s, but then they dropped significantly and the average airfare is now cheaper than Cleveland. Pittsburgh became consistently cheaper than Cleveland in the third quarter of 2006. The average Akron / Canton fare has been cheaper than Cleveland's since the second quarter of 1997.

BTS released its latest data in February, and it looks at airfares in the third quarter of 2010. At that time, Cleveland's fares were $389.56. That's the third highest rate since 1995. Cleveland airfares were at their highest in the third quarter of 2008 when the average airfare hit $398.02.

So what routes can generate the biggest savings for you? We'll let you know May 8th at 11 p.m.

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