The Best Alternate Airports In America

Flying to one of America’s numerous satellite airports can be faster and easier than charging into a congestion clogged airport that suffers delays on the sunniest days. Travel guru Peter Greenberg and his staff compiled a list of unlikely airports that can save you from the long lines and endless waits that plague traveler’s nightmares.

  • New York: MacArthur Airport in Islip is far, far away from the preferred outer-borough airports, but it is serviced by Southwest and accessible with a $10 Long Island Rail Road ticket.
  • Miami: South Florida has two viable options: Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Both have regular service to Miami via Tri-Rail for $5.50.
  • Chicago: No, Midway—our favorite Flight Simulator airport—is not the preferred alternate. Consider Milwaukee. Yes, Milwaukee.
    Not only is it a hub of the highly-regarded Midwest Airlines, but also Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service makes seven roundtrips a day between Chicago and the Milwaukee Airport. Each 90-minute one-way trip costs $21, much cheaper (and often faster) than using a cab.

  • Los Angeles: West Coast visitors can choose from Burbank, Long Beach, Ontario, Orange County and Palmdale airports. Long Beach has the best on-time arrival stats and good access to transportation.
  • San Francisco: Oakland is a good alternative, but may soon be as congested as San Francisco International.

Visit Peter Greenberg’s site for the more information on on-time statistics and departure destinations.

America’s Best Alternate Airports [Peter Greenberg]


Edit Your Comment

  1. JustinAche says:

    I can’t STAND San Fran’s airport, the layout is the worst, so I’ll keep Oakland in mind next time I fly out there

  2. Altdotweb says:

    Great options if you value time over money.

  3. samurailynn says:

    Another good alternative for San Francisco is San Jose. It’s a tiny airport, and I’ve always been in and out of there in about 15-20 minutes (compared to hours at other airports).

  4. glass says:

    half the stories on this site tell people to fly the major airports, because its cheaper. i read an article here recently that told people that if they could, they should drive to the nearest city, which would save them money.

    now this article, telling us “dont worry about money. save time!”

  5. parad0x360 says:

    Manchester airport in Manchester NH is an excellent alternative to Logan. They dont have as many flights to as many destinations but its a nice airport with 100x less traffic, delays and people. Its also easy to get to. Exit off the highway and drive about 3 miles down a single road.

  6. jacques says:

    One thing you’ll notice is that you can often find more flights and better schedules going to the hub airports. I’d personally much rather deal with the frustration of O’Hare and Miami than spending more, traveling further, and avoiding some (but not all) of the crowds.

  7. spinachdip says:

    @Altdotweb: How so? Alternate airports are often cheaper than the main airports (plus, they’re farther away from population centers so they don’t necessarily cut down on travel time, just wait time).

    Another option to consider for NYC is White Plains. You’d need to take a cab from the Metro North station though.

  8. JayDeEm says:

    I’ll cast my vote for Long Beach. Small size and easy access from the LA and Orange County areas make it a great alternative. Plus, it’s serviced by JetBlue. One interesting point is that there are no jetways, which means you get to walk up the steep, narrow staircase to actually get on the aircraft.

  9. bver100 says:

    @samurailynn: I agree about San Jose, but keep in mind that with the second terminal opening up it may/may not change traffic patterns there. I tend to fly out of there anyways since it’s my local airport

  10. elduque says:

    White Plains (HPN) is another good option for NYC. I used to fly in and out for business (before I moved to NYC). It’s not far from the city and with something like 4 gates, it’s incredibly easy to navigate.

  11. ukthom says:

    Boston: Alternate airports like Manchester, Providence, Portland Maine. Usually better service at these smaller airports, and from personal experience, much nicer to deal with. You pay a bit more to fly out of these airports (esp. international), but sometimes, especially for the holidays, it’s worth it.

    Happy Holidays!

  12. nucleotide says:

    Oakland airport blows chunks. The last couple of times I’ve been there the security lines ran out the doors and doubled back twice on the sidewalk. Speaking of security, theirs consist of a bunch of morons. There have been numerous times where some idiot runs past security and the whole terminal needs to be evacuated. I live in oakland and prefer flying out of sfo, the food’s better, it’s cleaner, and the security lines were way faster than my experience at oakland.

  13. coren says:

    It’s odd. This guy says Midway isn’t worth using because of the “small” difference in on-time flights versus O’Haire, but then goes on to recommend airports in Miami, LA, and San Fran that have smaller margins.

  14. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @parad0x360: Likewise, I always use Manchester-Boston Regional (MHT) rather than Logan (BOS). Parking is $8 a day, access is easy, security is quick, and there are a pretty good number of flights available.

    The cost can be slightly more, but if you add up the inconvenience of getting to and parking at Logan, it more than makes up for it.

  15. Annika-Lux says:

    Newburgh (SWF) would like to become NYC’s fourth airport.

  16. nevergod says:

    TF Green airport is always my go to airport if i can fly out of there instead of Logan. parkings cheaper if you have to leave a car, and the security lines are generally pretty quick and painless.

  17. huadpe says:

    @Altdotweb: Some of these are in fact more convenient than the hub airports. I live on Long Island for example, and it’s a 20 min drive to ISP, versus an hour to LGA. Depending where you’re going, it can be just as cheap as a hub ticket. Southwest’s prices are pretty consistent no matter where you’re flying from.

  18. spinachdip says:

    @jacques: I can’t speak for Chicago, but my experience with Ft Lauderdale has always been better than MIA. Getting to FLL isn’t appreciably harder than MIA, especially from outside Downtown or South Beach, and I’ve never had trouble finding flights to and from there.

    For the added 15 minutes in travel (some of which is negated by the MIA labyrinth), you pay a lower fare and get a less congested airport.

  19. Pylon83 says:

    I can’t speak to driving to and from Midway in Chicago, but the CTA Train service to and from is impeccable. Easy walk from the train platform to the terminal, check in, security is usually tolerable, and right to the gates. I’d say that any slight inconvenience encountered at Midway would FAR outweigh a train ride to and from Milwaukee. If you’re in Evanston, or on the far north side, maybe it’s another story entirely, but for anyone that has easy ‘L access it’s a no-brainer.

  20. tadowguy says:

    Denver – Colorado Springs, esp if you are going to be in Parker/Monument/South Denver.

    Washington, DC – Baltimore (BWI) or National

  21. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    I give Long Beach airport the thumbs up if you are in Los Angeles. LAX just blows. It’s crowded, security sucks, lines suck etc.

    I flew to and from Long Beach taking Jet Blue and it was a great experience. No flight delays like LAX constantly has, security took just a couple of minutes and was even more thourough than LAX. Parking is just across a 2 lane street from the terminal, and the terminal is small enough that it takes 2 minutes from leaving plane to get to baggage check or out the door in a crowd.

  22. North Antara says:

    I really enjoy flying out of Ontario. I’ve never had a late flight, and the rates are often better than Long Beach.

  23. zolielo says:

    Burbank is my pick for alternative Los Angeles airports. Easy to hop on the metro link (train to downtown Los Angeles) or if one wish to they can easily take the I-5 in a rental…

  24. asherchang2 says:

    What’s this Milwaukee Airport that I’ve never heard of till now?

  25. s35flyer says:

    Take your own flying lessons, then there are no issues. I dont fly airlines anymore.

  26. spinachdip says:

    @tadowguy: I wouldn’t exactly call Ronnie Reagan an alternate airport, when it’s the primary domestic airport for the DC. That said, the Metro connection makes it a much easier airport to deal with than Dulles.

  27. jordy777 says:

    Ft. Lauderdale is a great airport, so easy to get in and out of. And I would not recommend the Tri-Rail, it can be inconsistent and does not take you directly to the airport. Just splurge for the cab, or better yet, get an airport shuttle.

    Miami airport is murder.

  28. Pylon83 says:

    Bonanza Owner?

  29. TeraGram says:

    Having flown out of LAX and SBA, I have to recommend that more folks use regional airports. Not only is it cheaper to use my regional (SBA) than it is to drive or limo/airbus to LAX but the TIME factor makes it far, far sweeter.

    Add to this that in LAX you’re treated as a suspect; it is assumed that everyone is up to something and no one is given even a chance of explanation. At SBA, you’re treated like a living, breathing human, deserving of respect.

    Large airports suck.

  30. lastingsmilledge says:

    tf green in warwick is great instead of logan, and will be absolutley perfect once the amtrak/T station is completed.

  31. SabrinaFaire says:

    @asherchang2: It’s called General Mitchell International Airport. There’s even an aviation museum inside. I’m in the northern burbs and prefer it over Midway any day. Airport code is MKE.

  32. FLConsumer says:

    Get rid of the TSA and travel times decrease substantially.

  33. Altdotweb says:

    LGB is generally more expensive to fly unless you are flying to direct destinations serviced by the airlines.

    It might be my fault for not living in a high traffic airport on the other end of the route, but that still does not change my original statement.

  34. colflesh says:

    I live in the city and I have always flown out of and into O’Hare, but I’ve dropped people off or met them at Midway. I do agree with Pylon83 that taking the train (CTA) out to Midway is a breeze and driving there isn’t that bad. Additionally, the CTA to Midway only costs $2 each way and I would estimate that even from Evanston, the longest trip to Midway would take 90 minutes and probably less if you can hop on the Purple line during rush hour. Although I have never been to MKE, I would have to agree with Sabrinafaire that if you are in the northern burbs and not easily accessible to a CTA train, it is most likely easier and quicker to go to MKE. There really is not a quick route to Midway from the north burbs. You can hop on the expressway, but then you end up hitting either O’Hare traffic or the 90/94 merge traffic and then you’ll most likely hit traffic into the loop.

    Also, I have to agree that flying into and out of LAX totally sucks. I would rather pay a little extra money to fly into Santa Ana/Orange County (SNA). SNA is a great little airport. Even with a long security line, it’s usually just as quick as a short security line at LAX. Additionally, if you need to rent a car, the car rental counters are in the terminal at SNA and the garage for the cars is right across the street, which is very convenient.

    I have not had the opportunity to fly into LGB, but will be doing so in a couple of weeks on Jet Blue. The problem with LGB is that I typically fly AA and there aren’t any direct flights in. The same also kept me into flying ONT.

  35. craiggers says:

    I love being only 15 minutes away from Islip airport. Southwest is always on time out of there (it seems) and security is a total breeze. Too bad Southwest took up all the new gates when they expanded a couple of years ago…rumor had in Jet Blue wanted in. That would have just been awesome.

  36. croeso says:

    You forgot a great alternative airport in Florida… Saint Petersburg – Clearwater International… with its free parking and close access to the beach resorts that bring most vacationers to the Tampa Bay Area.

    As for Oakland Airport being a viable alternative for San Francisco International… if you live in the East Bay it is indeed a great alternative, despite poorly planned security areas that can result in lines longer than those in San Francisco. But congested interstate access from San Francisco and the peninsula is really tedious, and high taxi charges from San Francisco make using Oakland problematic.

  37. Rukasu says:

    This article could summed up as “fly wherever SWA flies”….END

    kudos on PVD!

  38. Asvetic says:

    Any alternates to using airports/airlines period? You never hear about trains or bus companies on here. Are they a bad alternative? I’d like to hear some opinions.

  39. jtlight says:

    Man, where is the love for Midway. I live in Chicago, just north of Downtown, and I fly out of Midway whenever I can. I have never had major delays (then again, I fly Southwest). I have never had to wait more than 5 minutes to check in, and never more than 10 for security. Plus, getting to and from the city is a breeze on the CTA. It takes less than 1/2 the time than getting out to O’Hare, even though O’Hare is closer to my apt. as the crow flies. For people in the far north, Milwaukee would make sense, but if you can use Midway, do it, especially if you’re visiting the city.

  40. grins says:

    Milwaukee’s Mitchell airport is truly a breeze compared to O’Hare. The downside is many of the flights from Mitchell one-stop at O’Hare and then continue on to the actual destination.

    If you can get a direct flight on Midwest, though, it’s a wonderful alternative. I think there was a line in an old TV ad for car rental agency–“You call that a terminal? I wouldn’t even break a sweat running down there!” :-)

  41. neithernor says:

    @asherchang2: It’s where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck got ejected to at the beginning of “Dogma.” Despite that, I would take Milwaukee over Midway any day.

  42. Heyref says:

    @DemolitionMan: If you are considering flying to the Bay Area, it’s also worth considering San Jose International (SJC) or even Sacramento (SMF).

  43. typetive says:

    I like Long Beach quite a bit, though it rarely has the schedule/price combo I need. Burbank is also great, but beware of landing there in high winds … it can be freaktastically scary they way the plane has to drop out of the sky for the approach.

    The only other thing to be aware of if you’re chosing these airports is to avoid the last flight of the day. Many have curfews, so they often can’t be late even if they want to.

  44. mattbrown says:

    don’t forget about westchester airport.

  45. spinachdip says:

    @mattbrown: Don’t worry, we got you covered: @spinachdip, @elduque.

  46. rolla says:

    @zirkus: agreed. Oakland is just as congested. Rather fly out of SFO.