Buffalo air travelers are getting one of the best deals in the country, according to a new federal transportation study.
Buffalo Niagara International Airport ranks among the five cheapest airports from which to fly in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
"This is the best we've ever ranked. This is excellent," said Lawrence M. Meckler, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
The federal air fare survey pegged the average cost of a round-trip ticket in the United States at $378 in the fourth quarter of last year.
In Buffalo, fliers paid a slim $295.58.
At the other end of the scale, the average round-trip flight from Anchorage, Alaska, cost $537.
Landing in the bottom five for low fares would not have seemed possible for Buffalo fliers in the mid-1990s, when airline ticket prices were sky high.
"In the third quarter of 1996, we were the second most expensive airport in the country," Meckler said. "Now 10 years later, we've turned the world around."
He credited efforts to sign low-cost airlines, like Southwest and JetBlue, whose low fares and plentiful direct flights to popular destinations have caused veteran carriers to offer competitive deals.
The NFTA chief said the cheap fares are great for both business and leisure travelers whose decisions to use the Buffalo airport aids the local economy.
"When businesses make decisions on where to locate, one of the factors is the cost of transportation. If your business is in Western New York, you can fly out of one of the least expensive airports in the country, and that matters," Meckler said.
He also noted the drawing power of low-priced tickets for leisure travelers who are increasingly savvy when making their vacation plans.
"They are willing to drive a little farther to an airport if the price is right, and we're doing a great job attracting travelers from Southern Ontario, Rochester and Erie," he said, noting that last month, 36 percent of cars in the airport's long-term parking lot had Canadian license plates.
The federal air fare report ranked Dallas Love Field, Chicago Midway, Houston Hobby and Long Island MacArthur, along with Buffalo, as the least costly of the nation's 100 largest airports.
Following Anchorage at the top of list were airports in Cincinnati, Honolulu and San Francisco, plus Kennedy International in New York City.
The Buffalo airport has seen continual growth in passenger counts over the past four years, hitting the 5 million mark for the first time last year. So far this year, tallies are continuing to rise.
The year-to-date flier count stood at 1.1 million through the end of last month, up 5.7 percent from the first three months of last year.