Last week I found super cheap airfares from Baltimore to Hagerstown and Lancaster. The fares are no longer available but I think they were $30 each way (over $50 right now).
I think only people without cars would take these flights.
First, you should check in for your flights an hour early. That alone basically washes away any time savings that flying would have.
OK, there can be a traffic snarl. Even more likely is that one or both of the flights will be delayed.
For the flights from Baltimore, yeah, you better be there 60 minutes before departure. I can see arriving later at the smaller airports. OK, say you checkin at Hagerstown or Lancaster only 30 minutes before departure.
You still have the time factor of getting to and from the airports. Unless your intended locations are at or close to the airports, you have to add those travel times to the checkin and flight durations.
Driving is quicker.
Second, what about rental cars, baggage claim, and car parking?
If you will be renting a car in Hagerstown or Lancaster, add more travel time. Add the time you need to wait for your luggage to appear at baggage claim. Add the time it takes to park your own car in Baltimore airports remote lots and catch a shuttle to the airport.
Perhaps, instead, you have arranged transportation on both ends. If you use a taxi or other service, it probably costs more than the flight. If you have someone take you and pick you up then hopefully they are reliable and on time.
The flying experience takes more time and is probably more expensive.
Money or Time. Time is Money?
Mostly, so far, I have mentioned time issues.
What about money?
Let’s say the trip will “cost” you $125 if driving your own car (about 200 miles total at IRS allowable 55.5 cents per mile). The reality is that you might spend nothing to drive your car on this trip.
Estimated “flying” costs will be $80 for the flight. Add to this any charges for parking your car ($9 per day), taxi ($20+ each ride), rental car ($30 per day), and baggage fees (if any).
You might “save” $45 if you only buy the flight and have free transportation to and from both airports. Any other expenses cut into that “profit.”
You really do not save any time, however, by taking a 30 minute flight compared to driving an hour and a half.
If you are a super important VIP, your time is valuable–right? Instead of driving between locations, you must work, work, work on your important things. I do not imagine such persons would be concerned with $30 fares.
It would be silly to take a 30 minute flight when the drive is only an hour and a half. It would not save any time.
I would do it for the novelty, to earn frequent flyer incentives, or for research (an article or curiosity).
You may have a connecting flight at the larger airport and may have to fly from a smaller airport. I used to fly between Monterey and San Francisco often but always to connect to another flight.
Another option is to rent a car instead of flying. I have done that.
Here are some of the shortest flights in the world.
How far would you consider driving rather than flying?
Charles McCool is an independent consumer travel advocate.
© 2011, Charles McCool