POCATELLO — Those traveling for the holidays may want to consider flying out of the Pocatello Regional Airport.
The online trip calculator Travelmath recently analyzed 322 airports in the U.S. using information gathered by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics from January to August, and it ranked some of the country’s smallest airports among the best. Canyonlands Field Airport in Moab, Utah, came in first, but Pocatello wasn’t far behind at No. 6.
“Overall, Western states including Utah, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska dominate the list of the top 20 airports, suggesting that the country’s best airports are located mostly in the West,” according to travelmath.com. “All but six of the top 20 top-ranked airports were also the least busy (less than 1,000 flight volume) — in other words, the country’s smallest airports are also its top ranked.”
Idaho Falls Regional Airport came in at 28th.
David Allen, manager of the Pocatello airport, agreed that there are advantages to flying out of smaller airports, which have fewer flights and, subsequently, fewer problems. And they have some perks, too. Pocatello offers free parking, complimentary coffee and a business work station, he said.
“Smaller airports offer overall better service,” he stated. “Pocatello, for example, is well known by our regular flyers for friendly service. We know our travelers; they’re our neighbors. Pocatello also offers the convenience of flying from home. We are minutes away from your front door, not hours.”
Travelmath looked at criteria including the percentage of cancelled and delayed flights, taxi time, average fare and TSA claims.
Not every small airport was ranked toward the top of the list — Columbia Regional Airport in Missouri came in at No. 317 overall. Still, the study found the higher the air traffic, the more airport rankings suffered. More than half of the 20 lowest-ranked airports serviced more than 10,000 flights.
“Some of the country’s busiest airports are located in major cities, and, surprisingly, many of these well-known airports rank at the bottom of the list,” according to travelmath.com, which adds that the three major airports in the New York City area all ranked in the bottom 10.
Although smaller airports often have premiums and limited daily flight schedules, Allen says they can also save people money and time when the cost of trying to get to another airport is taken into consideration.
“My advice is to check the fares at Pocatello each time you are booking a flight,” Allen said, adding that the prices can vary. “You may want to visit our website to better understand the true costs of driving to Salt Lake City so you have something to compare the premium against.”
Travel agents can also help people save money, he said.
Allen noted that there were 26,000 passenger boardings at Pocatello in 2014, up 12.5 percent from 2012, and numbers appear to be up slightly this year as well.
“We have gone out of our way to make the airport attractive, comfortable and interesting from the moment a traveler takes the interstate exit until they board the aircraft,” he said, adding that they have a newer parking area, a covered breezeway leading to the terminal, the Kizuna Japanese Garden, a new gate waiting area and a new passenger boarding bridge. “We’ve added amenities such as free Wi-Fi, a book swap from the Friends of the Marshall Public Library, a business work center and a military display on loan from the Bannock County Historical Museum.”