Major airports around the world are air traffic hubs that make connections easy and draw on large population centers to support them. The downside is that they are often bottlenecked with delays at the security lines and on the tarmac. Such chronic congestion has led to a resurgence of secondary and satellite airports in the communities and smaller cities surrounding established hubs.
Naturally, these smaller airports appeal to travelers who prefer not to fight traffic and crowds on their way to a major airport, but they have also captured the interest of air carriers seeking new routes into overcrowded markets. The benefit is twofold: When carriers establish service out of an alternative market, the surrounding communities reap economic rewards. In addition, travelers find shorter lines for check-in and security, fewer delays at take-off, more convenient and less expensive parking and easier trips to and from the airport.
London is one example of a city where outlying — and sometimes close-in — airports have come into play alongside the big boys. Even as Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW) turn into mini-cities, the young all-business-class airlines plying the transatlantic route have made Stansted (STN) and Luton (LTN) more common destinations. Eos is based at Stansted and Silverjet has its own Luton terminal. (American, which initiated service between New York JFK and Stansted last fall, will add a second daily flight in April.) London City Airport (LCY), just 10 miles from the city’s West End, has air service to and from many British cities and international service to and from most Western European countries.
Orly Airport (ORY), once Paris’ shining star (and, before Charles de Gaulle International (CDG) opened in 1974, the only game in town) saw most of its international traffic gradually shift to Charles de Gaulle. Orly slowly regained its footing in the international game by attracting newer and smaller carriers that couldn’t get desirable gates and time slots at CDG. Then, as with London, a new all-business-class airline, L’Avion, brought transatlantic service to the airport again. (Delta will also begin flying transatlantic between New York’s JFK and Orly as of June.) Aeroports de Paris has lately been investing heavily in both airports, spending $35 million to renovate the international passenger section of Orly’s South Terminal.
Smart travelers to Germany have begun to appreciate Düsseldorf International (DUS). With Frankfurt now the third-busiest airport in Europe (just behind Heathrow and CDG), and Munich rapidly catching up in terms of congestion, those who plan on traveling throughout Germany are finding Düsseldorf to be a more pleasant international gateway where they can whiz through the immigration and security lines. Lufthansa, which uses Düsseldorf as its secondary hub, will increase its long-haul flights out of Düsseldorf including routes to Toronto (YYZ) beginning in May. Other carriers that fly to Düsseldorf from the United States include Air Berlin/LTU, Delta and Northwest. The airport also has been modernized to handle the new superjumbo A380s — fast growth for an airport that only added “International” to its name in 1998.
After last year’s rampant delays at major U.S. gateways, the skies above alternative American airports have been looking a lot friendlier to travelers and airlines alike.
In Southern California, Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA), 41 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), has long been an open secret among those who live in the vicinity, though its relatively short runways limit traffic. Still, 10 different U.S. carriers serve SNA, providing an alternative to busy LAX with flights to and from most major cities as far east as Chicago. Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is an even closer- in alternative if you’re heading for Los Angeles — it’s just 10 miles from downtown and is served by eight U.S. airlines, including JetBlue flights to and from New York. Ontario International Airport (ONT), 35 miles east of Los Angeles, is another convenient alternative for those living in, or traveling to, the Inland Empire communities of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
In Northern California, the alternative to San Francisco International (SFO) is nearby Oakland International (OAK), which in recent years has been one of the fastest-growing airports in the United States. It’s still international primarily by virtue of flights to Mexico, but late last year TACA introduced three flights a week to El Salvador, and the extensive service between Oakland and airports throughout the United States offers a lot of good connecting options.
In the heartland, Midway International Airport (MDW), the alternative to Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD), has stood the test of time, providing options for Midwest travelers since it received its International designation in 1949. Akin to Orly, Midway was the primary airport for Chicago, and the world’s busiest airport overall, until the late 1950s, and was American Airlines’ original base of operations. These days, a new inline baggage screening system means passengers no longer have to carry their checked baggage from check-in to security. While Midway’s only international destination is Mexico, the nine airlines operating from MDW provide connecting service to major gateways in more than 30 states, plus the District of Columbia.
New York is served by three major airports: John F. Kennedy International (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark Liberty International (EWR) across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Each is notorious in its own way for delays and discomforts, but travelers can find far more pleasant options north of the city.
Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, N.Y., while constrained in its flight volume by its residential surroundings, continues to attract airline as well as corporate traffic; nine airlines fly from Westchester to 18 destinations in the United States and Canada, with nonstop service to 10 major cities. For those living in, or doing business in, Westchester County and western Connecticut, the manageable modern terminal and easy parking are a major draw.
Stewart International Airport (SWF) in Newburgh, N.Y., after a decade of privatization, last year came under the aegis of The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which operates the major airports in those states. Commercial service is once again on the rise, and the number of flights in 2007 was expected to be triple that of 2006. Getting its own highway exit last year also greatly improved its popularity with local travelers. At press time, five U.S. airlines were serving Stewart, with nonstop flights to Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and three Florida cities.
New Englanders are seeing the alternatives to Boston Logan (BOS) continue to improve. Manchester Boston Regional Airport (MHT) in southern New Hampshire is served by seven major airlines and has nonstop service to 16 U.S. cities as far west as Phoenix and Las Vegas. International service includes nonstops to Toronto and direct flights to other Canadian cities plus London, Lisbon, Mexico, the Bahamas and Costa Rica.
The other New England option, TF Green International (PVD) in Providence, R.I., is served by seven major U.S. carriers, several commuter airlines, Air Canada and Portuguese airline SATA. Together, they offer scheduled nonstop service to 19 U.S. gateway cities, plus Toronto and the Azores. Green has recently completed a major expansion of its shopping and dining facilities and added such amenities as massages and WiFi.
Airports to Watch
In England, Manchester International Airport (MAN), http://www.manchesterairport.co.uk is a ,growing option, with service from nine U.S. gateways and connections to most of Europe and the Middle East.
(BCN), http://www.castelldefels.com/aeroport/ also ,called El Prat, is the second airport in Spain behind Madrid (MAD). Unti l recently, it served primarily domestic and European destinations, but it now has service to and from the United States on Continental, Delta and US Airways, and American Airlines will start service to Barcelona in May.
The nearest alternative to hectic Miami International (MIA) is Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL), http://www.broward.org/airport/ One o.f the fastest-growing airports in the United States, it is the main hub of Spirit Airlines and is beginning to see its direct international service expand beyond Canada and the Caribbean into Latin America.
Travelers to Japan who want to bypass Tokyo’s Narita International (NRT) may be well served by Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX). Nicknamed “Kanku,” the airport has become an Asian hub, with almost 500 weekly flights, but it also has ample service to North America, Europe and the Middle East. United Airlines flies from Osaka to San Francisco, and JAL flies to Honolulu (HNL).
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