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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Dane County Regional Airport flight departures most expensive in nation

Flights around country increasing in price, including flights to, from Madison
Jeffrey Deiss

Madison’s Dane County Regional Airport is one of the nation’s priciest airports for domestic travel, according to a study by LendingTree. As of the first quarter of 2023, Dane County Regional Airport is the most expensive airport to depart from in the United States. Moreover, there was a 16.6% increase in the price of domestic tickets at the airport from 2022 to 2023.

The average price of a domestic ticket out of Dane County Regional Airport will run travelers $537.70, according to LendingTree. Just one other airport has an average domestic ticket price above $500, which is Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska.

But while Dane County Regional Airport is more expensive than other airlines, air travel costs across the nation have been on the rise, according to LendingTree. Domestic ticket prices rose by 9.8% between 2022 and 2023 and 28.4% between 2021 and 2022. This is in part explained by Americans resuming air travel following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.


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University of Wisconsin professor of agricultural and applied economics Steven Deller said airlines often set prices based on how prices are received elsewhere.

“A lot of the airlines play ‘follow the leader’ in setting prices,” Deller said. “One airline will up prices and see how others respond — if none of the other airlines follow suit they will drop their prices back in line, if others rise prices then we are at a new level.”

Dane County Regional Airport has little control over the prices of flights, Deller said. Instead, individual airlines change prices. The airport does charge for things like gate fees and state and local taxes, like motor fuel taxes, but according to Deller, Wisconsin has one of the lowest motor fuel taxes in the country. People flying out of Madison are willing and able to pay higher prices due to ease of travel, so airlines are capitalizing on that.

UW junior Caroline Kivlehan has never flown into Dane County Regional Airport because of the high costs, choosing instead to fly into O’Hare International Airport or Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

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“I always fly into O’Hare or Milwaukee and I take a bus and it still ends up to be cheaper than flying [into Madison],” Kivlehan said. “However, I do think that flying into Madison is super convenient, so unfortunately … you’re paying a lot of money but you’re paying for convenience. A lot of students don’t want to take the bus to and from Milwaukee or Chicago because it makes a four hour flight like a 10 hour travel day.”

It depends if it’s worth it to travel to Milwaukee or Chicago to save on the Madison premium, Deller said. Generally, people are willing to pay a bit more for the convenience of flying out of Madison. Travelers have to decide if they value money spent on a closer plane more than they value the time spent traveling to Milwaukee or Chicago.

These prices usually peak around major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, as a result of high holiday demand. Kivlehan has seen ticket prices of up to $900 around these hot spots, she said.

UW junior Norhan Magdy has avoided flying into O’Hare in favor of the Dane County Regional Airport, but has recently taken note of how much flight costs are increasing. The high prices may force a change of plans, Magdy said.

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“Flying in and out of Madison is so nice for how easy it is to get to the airport from campus … in theory it makes the most sense for me, but it’s starting to make less and less sense because of the price,” Magdy said.

The high prices of Dane County Regional Airport are due to one or two of the airlines that service Madison upping their fares with limited change in demand, Deller said. This means people still bought the tickets even with their high prices, which caused all of Madison’s airlines to follow suit in raising prices — they were seizing a business opportunity.

There are things people can do to save on airfare though, even with increasing prices. Travelers should start looking at flights three to four months in advance and book their flight one or two months before their planned departure date for the best deal, according to Time. Booking mid-week travel dates instead of weekends also helps lower flight costs.

For the upcoming holiday season, it is unlikely that ticket prices will go down for the majority of airports across the nation, let alone Dane County. Domestic flight costs will continue to rise into the winter, according to FOX Business. But, the expected holiday season price increase in 2023 will be less than in 2022.

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