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Going behind the dollars and cents on airfares

Mindy Kershner/ CVG Airport / original publish December 2, 2020 / Updated January 19, 2021/ Updated January 20, 2022

US-DOT-2021-Q3 Graphic

Travel sites like Kayak, Travelocity, Expedia and Airfare Watchdog can be helpful when searching for that low airfare that meets your travel schedule. Jay Kruz’s blog, Jet with Jay, is also updated with travel deals and ideas. In addition to travel sites, there are some well-known pro tips on how and when to book a cheaper flight—like buying your ticket on a Tuesday around seven to nine weeks out from your departure date (during non-COVID times). And, traveling early in the morning on cheaper days like Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays helps, too.

But, understanding why and how airfares fluctuate is a bit more complicated. If you’ve lived in or visited the Cincinnati region in the last 10-15 years, you’ve probably asked yourself this question. You likely recall airfares being high at CVG Airport. CVG was ranked having the most expensive airfares for several years, which is not a first-place title you want your hometown airport to hold. The further down in the ranking, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s average airfare report, the better.

So, when CVG started touting #69, #78 and #83 airfare rankings, we received the question: “how is this good news?”. The U.S. Department of Transportation takes the top 100 airports in the country (based on passenger counts) and compares their average airfares over a period of three months or one quarter. They then rank those airports from most expensive (#1) to least expensive (#100).


A ranking of #78 (CVG’s ranking as of the third quarter of 2021) is good news because it demonstrates that airfares, when averaged together, are lower than 78 other top U.S. airports. And for four years, CVG’s airfare ranking has been the lowest of all airports in the region.

But, how do airfares drop in price? To be clear, airlines set their own airfares. Airports work with carriers to identify and communicate opportunities for establishing operations and/or growing current operations. During the time when CVG had higher airfares, it was one of two airports in the country without service from low-cost carriers so not much competition. Now, the focus on recruiting low-cost carriers (i.e. Southwest in some respects, Frontier, Allegiant) to complement a diverse, strong mix of legacy carriers (i.e. Delta, United, American) has paid off. This work has enabled competition, which has driven down fares.

When you have a good business strategy and each of these elements work together, you typically see lower fares (unless you are in the middle of a pandemic and then much of this logic is out the window). However, the CVG team is committed to keeping airport costs low for years to come so our airline partners can continue doing business here with the most competitive airfares around.