"Alternative airports" score sky-high approval among travelers
MILWAUKEE - Offering lower airfares, affordable parking and overall convenience, "alternative" airports score sky-high approval among air travelers who've used them. And the ease of travel is catching on, as 48 percent of U.S. adults who have traveled on an airplane in the past year traveled via an alternative airport.
In fact, 92 percent of U.S. adults who've flown through an alternative airport in the past year would do so again, according to an online survey conducted in May among 2,361 U.S. adults by Harris Interactive, commissioned by Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport (MKE), a recognized alternative to Chicago's O'Hare (ORD). Yet, survey results revealed that only 19 percent of U.S. adults who search for air travel online say they always or often search for alternative airports.
"Alternative airports may be one of travel's best kept secrets, offering those who use them the potential for significant time- and money-savings," says Pat Rowe, spokesperson for Mitchell Airport. In the study, which explored air traveler preferences pertaining to airports, low fares and convenience emerged as key themes:
- "Low fares" take precedence. Of those U.S. adults who have traveled via airplane in the past year, when considering which airport to use, 70 percent selected "low fares" as being most important, followed by "proximity to home" (66 percent) and "access to nonstop service" (36 percent).Average airfares generally are lower at smaller airports near major hubs, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics. Mitchell Airport's airfares average $108 less than those of nearby O'Hare, and $75 less than the national average.
- Flying via alternate airports brings "less stress." Airports appear to play a large role in setting the tone for a trip. According to the study, 77 percent of travelers who've flown via an alternative airport in the past year said it brought less stress than flying through a major airport, and 88 percent reported having a "happy experience" at an alternative airport. When it comes to the effect that stress has on a traveler's overall travel experience, 68 percent of travelers who've traveled via airplane within the past year feel that if their experience with an airport is stressful, it affects their overall trip. The percentage among business travelers is even higher, with 75 percent having that sentiment.
Rowe speaks to the Mitchell experience: "Chicago area travelers drive an uncongested freeway to Mitchell and park in our lots for less, while inbound travelers take advantage of our quick, easy access to Chicago. It's a much calmer experience than O'Hare, and with our lower fares and many nonstop destinations, they keep coming back."
Often referred to as "Chicago's Third Airport," Mitchell has enjoyed record growth and increasing popularity among northern Chicago travelers over the past several years. The airport estimates about 10 percent of its nearly 10 million annual passengers reside in neighboring Illinois.
Besides Chicago, many other large U.S. cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston and Miami, are served by alternative airports. Identifying them can be as simple as check-marking a box or two in an online fare search. Since alternative airports aren't always automatically included, travelers can simply select the 'advanced search' option to include nearby airports in their fare search.
Travelers should also keep in mind that flights and fares on certain airlines, most notably Southwest Airlines, which serves MKE, aren't accessible on most online travel booking sites. So, travelers should also compare fares directly on the airline website.