Buffalo Airport Overview – Save $400 / Person Over Toronto’s Airports

Tuesday 29th, January 2013 / 04:22 Written by
Buffalo Airport Overview – Save $400 / Person Over Toronto’s Airports
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In this series, I will talk about how to use Buffalo as an alternate airport to Toronto.

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Toronto is my home town and, given that I have a desire to travel at the best possible price, I have always looked for alternatives. In Toronto, we are blessed cursed with having the largest and busiest airport in Canada. Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) has also been credited with having some of the highest landing fees of any airport in the world since the middle of the past decade.

Fortunately, we do have alternatives. For those of us in Southern Ontario, we live just 90 minutes from the US border and (more importantly) our savior: Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF).

Here’s the skinny:

BUF Address 4200 Genesee Street
Cheektowaga, New York 14225
Contact www.buffaloairport.com
716-630-6000
Savings Required US$50 / way over YYZ or YTZ
Distance (by car) <150km or less than 2 hours
Parking costs <US$10 / day or US$50 / week
One-Way car rentals US$65 – US$150 . way
Shuttles US$100 / person (YYZ-BUF)
Taxis ~C$200 door to door
Bus US$20 / person

Why BUF?

When I look at traveling, I like to find out the best way to balance price and convenience. When people ask me to find them the best prices to travel, I find that the best way to cut down your travel cost is by looking at alternate airports.

For many flights, flying through BUF can provide significant savings over flying out of YYZ, depending on where you are going. I have found the best savings are when flying to US destinations, but in my experience, I have saved a lot on international flights as well.

BUF has direct flights to most of the northeast USA & great lakes region as well as the airline hub cities and some sun destinations. Some of these destinations are served very well (with good competition driving down prices) via YYZ so you have to decide whether the savings are worth your time.

If you aren’t convinced, the Buffalo Airport website does a great job of highlighting the advantages of flying out of BUF over YYZ.

Here is an article on why Canadians are using US airports to fly out of.

Comparisons

As mentioned earlier, the biggest savings for using BUF instead of YYZ come from domestic US flights. There can be some savings internationally, but those are rare. I find that the best savings on international flights come due to fare sales that are applicable to all US cities. The low taxes at BUF tend to give it an advantage when the airlines are trying to fill seats.

Here are some examples of roundtrip savings (all USD):

Destination Dates Best Price (YYZ) Best Price (BUF) Savings / Person
by using BUF
Houston 10/25 – 11/6 $709 $253 $456
Las Vegas 11/29 – 12/2 $530 $292 $238
Edmonton 11/13 – 11/18 $662 $507 $155
Hong Kong January 2013 $1116 $1141 -$25
New York 11/2 – 11/4 $302 $250 $52

Prices shown were available as of September 27, 2012.

Something of note for people who are thinking about flying into one airport and out of another. Flights departing Toronto Pearson Airport (especially to the US) have higher taxes and fees than those arriving into Toronto. Buffalo Airport does not have this anomaly. If you are considering using Buffalo for only 1 of your legs, then I suggest flying OUT of Buffalo and INTO Toronto Pearson to save on the taxes.

Does flying out of BUF make sense for you?

My general rule of thumb has been to budget about $50 worth of dollar costs and time costs to get between BUF and Toronto. When doing your own considerations, make sure to budget the time it takes to get to BUF from wherever you are in the city as well as costs, including gas, parking, tolls (if driving) and bus fare (if taking the bus).

When going to Buffalo to fly out, instead of Toronto, you have to also realize that you are going to be crossing the border by land, instead of at the airport. I always enjoy flying out of BUF to the US since I don’t have to go through that crazy lineup at YYZ. That land border can be busy at certain times of the day, so make sure to keep that in mind. Also, if you have a Nexus or Global Entry this could speed up your border crossing time.

When doing an analysis to see if flying out of Buffalo makes sense, I feel it is important to look at all the dollar and time costs. Here is an analysis for the first example where 4 people are traveling to Houston and driving their own car to BUF.

1. Ground Transportation

Assume we start at Fairview Mall (M2J5A7)

YYZ BUF Savings (costs)
BUF vs YYZ
Assumptions
Gas $5.46 $38.26 -$32.80 $3.99/gallon & 25 MPG
Tolls $0.00 $5.25 -$5.25 (most expensive) Queenston-Lewiston Bridge
Parking $0.00* $70.00 -$70.00 YYZ: no cost if you can get a ride
BUF: parking for 2 weeks at Quality Inn
Total
Ground
$5.46 $113.51 -$108.05

2. Flights

Assume 4 travelers, checking 1 bag each way

YYZ
(per person)
YYZ
(4 persons)
BUF
(per person)
BUF
(4 persons)
Savings (costs)
BUF vs YYZ
Assumptions
Roundtrip Flight $709 $2836 $253 $1012 $1824
Baggage Fees $60 $240 $60
(or $0)
$240
(or $0)
$0
(or $240)
Bag fees can be avoided by flying Southwest or Jetblue
Total Flight $769 $3076 $303 $1212 $1824

3. Time Costs

Outbound (to Houston):

YYZ BUF Assumptions
Travel to the airport 20 min 120 min
US Border Crossing 45 min 20 min US bound passengers must allow an extra 45 mins for US customs at YYZ
Traffic Buffer 15 min 30 min
Total Outbound Travel Time 80 min 170 min

Inbound (to Toronto):

YYZ BUF Assumptions
Canada Border Crossing 20 min 20 min
Travel to Toronto from Airport 20 min 120 min
Total Inbound Travel Time 40 min 140 min

Roundtrip Travel Time:

YYZ BUF Difference
Outbound Time 80 min 170 min 90 min
Inbound Time 40 min 140 min 100 min
Total Travel Time 120 min 310 min 190 min

4. Analysis

Ground Transport costs: -$108
Flight Savings: $1824
Total Dollar Savings: $1716

Time Cost: 190 min

So, in this case it looks like you are saving $1716 for 4 people and it only cost you an extra 190 min. This is a savings of $429 / person, or about $135 / hour.

Recap

Flying out of Buffalo’s Niagara International Airport (BUF) can be a big money saver for people interested in flying from the Toronto area. In this post I showed how you can save over $400 / person on a trip to Houston by flying out of BUF instead of one of Toronto’s airports.

When doing the analysis, make sure to include your flight cost savings, ground transportation costs and time costs associated with using BUF.

Next time you are looking at flying out of one of Toronto’s airports, consider investigating whether flying out of BUF makes sense for you.

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