Theres mostly bad information for travelers intending to fly on business or on vacation this summer, according to a recent article published in U.S. News & World Report. Not only have flight delays increased, but so, too, have the number of passengers affected per plane. For some, the news was worse than for others. Evaluating the nations major airports using a combination of the percentage of flights delayed and the average load of departing airplanes, the U.S. News article branded Detroits Wayne County Airport as the nations worst.
Official Department of Transportation numbers paint a frustrating picture for Motowns frequent fliers. Thirty-nine percent of flights at Detroit are delayed. Combined with an average load factor of just under seventy-seven percent - meaning that aircraft leaving the Motor City are almost 77 percent full - Detroits airport serves up the most misery to the largest number of people when flights miss their scheduled departure times.
Given the fact that I live not far from Detroit and make the occasional business trip to nearby Chicago or Cleveland, these figures got me thinking about the advantages - if any - of driving to these destinations. With the help of some other tips in the article, it was quite easy for me to price and then compare the cost of driving and flying to each of these cities.
The first step in the process was to visit http://fuelcostcalculator.com.
Run by the American Automobile Association (AAA), this website makes it easy to enter your starting point and final destination along with the make, model and year of manufacture of your automobile. Using MPG estimates for your particular make of car and the average gas price for your part of the country, AAAs fuel cost calculator quickly computes the distance in miles, the quantity of fuel required and cost of that fuel for a typical drive from lets say - Detroit to Chicago. In my case, I learned that I could expect to use 10.58 gallons of gas for the 275-mile drive to the Windy City at an approximate fuel cost at just over 33 dollars (33.23). The calculator likewise gave me the round-trip cost of the drive, in this case, 66.46.
To find out how this would compare to flying, I next pointed my Web browser to http://sidestep.com.
Sidestep appeals to me because it scours hundreds of airline and discounted fare websites for the best deal and then lets me book my flight directly with the airline company instead of using an intermediary like Orbitz, Travelocity or Expedia. Dealing directly with the airline and not through a third-party ticket broker, makes it easier and possibly less expensive if fees are involved to change my flight if necessary.
While visiting http://sidestep.com, I located an American Airlines non-stop flight that would take me from Detroit to Chicago on a Tuesday and return me the following Thursday at a total round-trip cost of 119.00 dollars. Not a bad price by any means, but still approximately twice the cost of driving. And the price did not factor in the cost of airport parking or any extra airport charges or taxes.
Because I enjoy driving, the choice to drive to Chicago on my next business trip was an obvious one. My route takes me right by the Detroit airport anyway and Id rather spend my time driving through the scenic countryside of Western Michigan than battling long lines and possible delays at the airport. In addition, its nice to have my own car in Chicago and also gratifying to save on the cost of a rental car.
Whether a decision like this adds up for you depends for the most part on your starting point and ultimate destination. Although its still very slightly cheaper for me to drive from Detroit to Los Angeles than it is to fly, for example, Id never consider making this long drive part of a business trip.
As a rule its the shorter trips, on the order of 250 to 450 miles, where driving makes sense. See for yourself by comparing the cost of flying and the cost of driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Washington, D.C. to Boston, or Miami to Orlando using the tools available at http://fuelcostcalculator.com and http://sidestep.com.
About the author: Matthew Paolini is http://Citybook.com's compliance officer for the Saint Paul, MN business Yellow Pages division.
By: Matthew Paolini