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These Are the Best (And Worst) Airports for International Flight Deals

June 25, 2019
6 min read
These Are the Best (And Worst) Airports for International Flight Deals
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Flight deal website Scott's Cheap Flights has released its ranking of the best and worst US airports for cheap international flights, along with some helpful advice on how to snag inexpensive fares.

To perhaps no one's surprise, New York City's JFK topped the list with 436 cheap international flight deals sent to Scott's Cheap Flights members. New York's JFK tops the list because not only is it an American and Delta hub, but it also is the home base for JetBlue and served by more than 70 international airlines, Scott's Cheap Flights said in a press release. The site noted that it finds more deals for cheap flights from JFK than any other airport. Some of its best deals include a $472 roundtrip from New York to Kuala Lumpur.

In 2018, the team sent more than 7,000 emails with flight deals from more than 150 US airports. For the study, they compiled data on which airports in metropolitan areas of at least 1 million people offered the most and least cheap international flights.

“We wanted to answer the question: what cities get the most cheap flights,” founder Scott Keyes told TPG in an interview.

So who made the top of the list?

Aside from the New York City region, metropolitan areas such as Washington Dulles (IAD), San Francisco (SFO) and Miami (MIA) made the list, as each has significant tourist attraction to its cities. Here's a list of the cities that made the best-of list:

  1. New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  2. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  3. Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  4. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  5. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  6. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
  7. Miami International Airport (MIA)
  8. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
  9. Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  10. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)

Keyes noted that even some major cities with populations over 1 million didn't make the best-of list, for various reasons.

"Places like Houston (IAH), Philadelphia (PHL) and Dallas (DFW) are not on the top 10 list because those cities have an airline monopoly," he said. Houston is a major United hub and both Philadelphia and Dallas Fort-Worth are dominated by American Airlines. Orlando (MCO) made the list, he said, because of its proximity to Disney World, which draws US tourists as well as foreign visitors.

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But what do you do if your airport doesn't have many cheap flight deals?

Here's a list of the cities that made the worst-of list:

1. Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO)
2. Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP)
3. Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR)
4. Norfolk International Airport (ORF)
5. Albany International Airport (ALB)
6. Long Beach Airport (LGB)
7. Louisville International Airport (SDF)
8. Will Rogers World Airport (OKC)
9. General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
10. John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)

If you're in the Greensboro (GSO) region, it may seem like you don't have many options.

The airport came in dead last, with the site reporting that it sent just 22 deals from the airport to its members last year. The site blames "[a] lack of options" which, it says, translates to a lack of deals for the region but reminds readers that Charlotte (CLT) is a close airport that may provide options. Other airports on the "worst-of" list include Norfolk (ORF), Albany (ALB) and Milwaukee (MKE).

Keyes advises travelers planning international trips out of these airports to remain optimistic.

"If you’re on the worst airport list, please don’t lose hope," Keyes emphasized. "There are plenty of cheap flights out there."

Of course, even if you don't live in a major travel hub there are still ways to get cheap international flights and save money. One way, for instance, is by using points and miles to connect from a smaller airport to a larger one that might have cheap flights. Or, you can try using miles to book the entire itinerary.

Let's say you were planning a trip from Grand Rapids, Michigan's Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), for which the site sent out just 26 deals for in the last year, to Taipei (TPE) for a week in October. While the flight is currently being sold for under $1,000 round-trip on Google Flights, it includes two stops both ways and almost a full day's worth of traveling.

You could take a quick one-hour flight to Chicago (ORD) -- which ranked No. 6 on the list –– using 20,000 United MileagePlus miles round-trip. From there, EVA Air offers non-stop service between Chicago and the Taiwanese capital. If you're able to find a deal from Chicago, it may make sense to book the trip on two separate itineraries. Just be aware of the pitfalls of booking a split itinerary.

If you're running low on MileagePlus miles, you can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, as both are transfer partners. If you don't have a Chase card in your wallet, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a great starter, as it'll net you 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Most importantly, Keyes recommends that would-be international travelers, regardless of home airport, always be on the lookout for cheap deals.

“You have to be vigilant if a good deal pops up from your home airport,” Keyes said.

You can subscribe to services like Scott's Cheap Flights or Dollar Flight Club for flight deals, and make sure to follow @tpg_alerts on Twitter or our deals feed. For even more tips, listen to TPG's podcast with Scott Keyes below:

Featured image by John Harrison Photography
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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