Best (and Worst) Airports for Saving Time and Money

If you're choosing a destination for vacation, this ranking could make the difference. A serious wonk crunched the numbers.

Best (and Worst) Airports for Saving Time and Money Photo (cc) by Nick Harris1

If you’re still planning your summer vacation, or maybe even a fall vacation because you like to go after peak season and save a few bucks, the airport you use matters, according to what Nate Silver found. The results are happy news for people seeking some sunny days on the beach.

Now, most of us don’t have much choice in which airport we leave from, because most metro areas only have one. But if you haven’t decided where to go, choosing the right destination airport can mean less time in transit and more time enjoying your trip.

Silver, the statistical prodigy who famously correctly called the results in all 50 states during the 2012 presidential election, turned his skills to airlines in a post on his website.

In this piece on fivethirtyeight.com, Silver explained his methodology, accounting for actual travel time, not the padded times the airlines use, adjusting for challenges at different airports at different times of the year, and accounting for cancellations and diverted flights.

He found the best airport to use between May 2014 and April 2015 was the king of sunny beach vacations, Honolulu, Hawaii (HNL for you airport letter code junkies). Followed by Portland (maybe not as reliably sunny, but there is a good book store and doughnuts), and San Diego (more good news for those seeking the sunny beach days).

If you want to see a Broadway show during your trip, however, you might want to build in some extra time. Each of the bottom three airports serve New York. The worst being LaGuardia, with JFK second from the bottom and Newark third.

Silver’s study also ranked the airlines that save and cost people the most time. Virgin America topped the list, saving people an average of seven minutes between May 2104 and April 2015. United was the worst, costing people five minutes during the same time frame.

What are your air travel tips and tricks? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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