Being based in San Diego, choosing what airport to fly from can sometime be EXTREMELY difficult. Of course, some airports are MUCH closer to home and are more convenient, but sometimes the price difference is SO large that I cannot justify flying from my local airport instead of one of the many other area airports. I grew up in a doublewide trailer and driving a little further to save some money was the way I was raised!
Lindbergh Field is home to San Diego International Airport and is extremely undersized and underserved; based on the tremendously large population of San Diego. However, due to the short single runway, stationed between two large hills, and so close to downtown, it’s no surprise this airport is lacking options! However, the good part about living in San Diego is that Tijuana airport is only 15 miles away and provides access to flights to Shanghai, Tokyo, and 1-stop connection to a number of destinations in Latin America, Canada, and Europe. North of San Diego is the tiny regional Carlsbad service, only served by United with connections to LAX.
That means, within a 30 miles radius, I have 3 airports to choose from. This is sufficient for most of my travels, however it doesn’t necessarily lower my travel costs and honestly I’m ALWAYS looking for the best deals possible! This means, often times I’m finding flights out of the LA area airports; this still doesn’t bother me. LAX is only 126 miles from my house, and regardless of traffic I can get there in 2 hours on my motorcycle (California is the ONLY state in the union that allows motorcycles to share lanes/drive between cars!). This also means that the John Wayne airport in Orange County and the smaller Long Beach airport can also be reached in less than 2 hours, now opening my options to 5 airports, and honestly I can even get to Burbank in 2.5 hours or Ontario in 2 hours.
This last week I had a conundrum, I had bought a last minute ticket to Buenos Aires on Aeromexico for $430 from LAX. Aeromexico does not serve LAX and the cheapest flight from TIJ, SAN or CLD was over $1300! So being a no brainer, I was going to fly from LAX. A ticket for $430 was a true DoubleWide Delight, but now my problem though was, how to get to LAX?!
Option 1: Drive my motorcycle
Pros: Free parking at LAX for motorcycles, cost about $12 in gas
Cons: Riding my motorcycle can be extremely exhausting, my luggage does fit in my cruiser, but if I buy anything large I cannot bring it home from LAX.
Total cost: $24 roundtrip
Option 2: Amtrak
Pros: Comfortable, connects San Diego and LAX multiple times a day
Cons: Fixed schedule, does not take me directly to the airport, takes longer than driving my motorcycle (3 hours)
Option 3: Public transit
Pros: It’s all in place already, environmentally friendly and I’d get to ride on buses and trains!
Cons: Price, time (5 hours house-airport)
Option 4: Buy a ticket from SAN-LAX
Pros: It’s easy to fly between the two cities, lots of flights every day, lots of competition between DL, UA, AA
Cons: Costs – Last minute flights cost ~$600 round trip.
Costs: $600 roundtrip OR when I looked yesterday 32,000miles on DL + $5, 25,000 miles on AA + $5, 17,500 miles on UA +$90. OR I could transfer 7000 Membership rewards points via my AMEX and get a 40% bonus from British Airways and redeem 9,000 Avios miles + $5 round trip.
Option 5: Greyhound
Pros: Lots of options throughout the day
Cons: Leave from downtown and arrives in downtown, I’d still have to transfer to LAX
Clearly, I had a lot of options to choose from. Due to costs and time restraints though I decided that the the greyhound, mass transit, and Amtrak options were out. This left me with the options of flying vs driving. Not knowing what I would do I took to twitter to see what you all would do. It was an even split. Some said drive, some said fly! Of course American Airlines said fly!
I thought about it some more, and despite there being seats available for only 9000 Avios miles (costing me only 7k Amex MR points thanks to the 40% bonus) and being a value of about 9.9 cents per mile due to the high price of the last minute ticket, I still decided to drive. Here’s why: Flexibility and it almost takes the same amount of time. At least now I could either stay in LA after my flight home from Buenos Aires or I could drive right home. OR better yet, if a flight was oversold, I could take a bump! Finally, flight times from SAN to LAX are about 45 minutes, however with check-in and security, one must arrive about 45minutes to 1 hour before departure. This means total time even on a good day is still 90 minutes from point to point. Last month, I left my home when my sister was boarding her plane to LAX. I arrived in the Disneyland parking garage at the same time she landed in LAX from SAN. Enough said.
What would you do? Would you pay more to originate in SAN? Would you drive to LAX to catch a flight for major savings? OR would you fly from LAX and then use alternative means to get to LAX? Now of course, if you drive a car, everything changes. Traffic from the LA-SAN area is horrible and can sometimes take 3-4 hours to go between the two cities. Furthermore, off site airport parking, even when cheap, is still $9-$15 a day. But that aside, what would you do? I drove! Next time, maybe I’ll fly!