Airfares dropped more sharply at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in early 2014 than at any of the nation’s 20 busiest airports.
And MSP passengers deserved a break, considering they’ve been paying more than people at most of those airports.
The higher historical fares and the recent price cuts stem from competition — or the lack of it.
Low-cost carriers Spirit and Southwest launched service in the past six years at MSP. They and other cheap airlines have increased their flights at the airport by one-third since 2011. That’s a major reason why average fares dropped 6.7 percent in the first quarter of this year from 2013, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said.
The decline was reported recently by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which said fares at the nation’s 100 busiest airports dropped by 1 percent.
MSP is the 15th-busiest U.S. airport as measured by domestic passengers. But its average fare early this year of $425 was higher than all but three of the top 20 busiest airports: Newark, Dallas-Fort Worth and New York’s JFK.
Denver International, the third-busiest, had an average airfare of $334. But Denver and other busiest airports are less dependent than MSP on being a hub for one airline.
Competition helps keep fares down at Denver, where United snares 40 percent of passengers, and Frontier and Southwest split 47 percent. At MSP, Delta Air Lines and its affiliates carry 75 percent. American and United airlines split 80 percent of the passenger traffic at Chicago O’Hare.
“MSP is geographically isolated and doesn’t have the draw — and therefore the competitive air service — many of the top 20 airports do,” Hogan said. When MSP is compared to less busy airports its fares look better: 23rd out of the top 100.
The Twin Cities area is home to a high concentration of major firms, making it easier for airlines to fill more expensive seats.
“Airfares are likely to remain higher at MSP than at many other airports,” Hogan said.