Every day millions of Americans take to the skies, whether for business or pleasure, and most of their trips start with a simple online flight search. At Hopper we can see these flight searches, and we're using our unique perspective to develop insights for travelers, like showcasing America's most popular destinations for air travelers.
What makes these numbers a little more interesting than simple passenger traffic between airports is that we actually know the end-point of a traveler's journey and not just their connecting airports. So while Atlanta may be the world's busiest airport, with 95 million passengers each year, it's not even one of the ten most popular destinations for U.S. fliers.
The following information is crowdsourced from approximately 271 million flight searches in 2013 and the destinations on this list are ranked by the number of flight searches we've seen from travelers to their airports.
The data used in the article was provided by the team at Hopper Research, Hopper's data science department. See more of the work they're doing at Hopper.com/research or take a look at this, more in-depth, analysis of the most popular flight destinations in the United States which includes charts.
Seattle was the 10th most popular destination for American air travelers in 2013, and is an especially popular destination for travelers from Alaska and the West Coast. Its airport, Sea-Tac, is the hub airport of Alaska Airlines, which offers great connections to destinations across the West Coast.
After landing at Sea-Tac, it's a quick ride on the airport's rail link to downtown Seattle and its many attractions. The Pike Place Market is a good place to start, but other major attractions in Seattle include the EMP Museum, founded by Paul Allen, and the Seattle Art Museum, which is one of the country's best.
Chicago is in the midst of a tourism boom, as more and more travelers are beginning to discover the charms of America's "Second City." Big-ticket attractions include the Art Institute of Chicago, Navy Pier and Wrigley Field. Oh, and the deep-dish pizza is pretty good too. In fact, Hopper recently named Chicago as one of the top seven cities in America for pizza.
Chicago is served by two airports, Midway and O'Hare, and sees a lot of transit traffic pass through its skies. Both airports are prone to cancellations and flight delays – maybe it's all that wind? – but Midway is typically the better option, as it's closer to the city and often sees cheaper fares than O'Hare.
With its warm days, sandy beaches and tanned beachgoers, Honolulu is the place to escape the winter doldrums. A little slice of Polynesia in America, visitors to Honolulu can either choose to spend their time relaxing on the beach at Waikiki or having an active holiday by hiking Diamond Head or surfing in Haleiwa on Oahu's North Shore.
Honolulu International Airport is the gateway to the Hawaiian Islands, and is an especially popular destination for travelers from the West Coast and Asia. Hawaiian Airlines has its base of operations at the airport, but dozens of other airlines serve Honolulu.
Fliers to our nation's capital have three airports to choose from when booking their flights: Dulles, Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International. Reagan National is by far the most convenient of the bunch, as it's located right across the Potomac from the city and is connected to D.C. via the Metro.
Travelers arriving at one of the other airports will most likely want to rent a car for their trip, which means that they can also enjoy a nice a day trip out of Washington D.C. to one of the many nearby destinations like Gettysburg, Annapolis or Colonial Williamsburg. Also take a look at Hopper's article on the five best day trips from Washington D.C.
The wonders of San Francisco are well known, but the area has a lot more to offer travelers than just one fantastic city. For instance, California's wine country – Sonoma and Napa Valleys – are just a short drive north of the city. Check out some of our other articles on Hopper for more ideas for day trips from San Francisco.
Most travelers flying to San Francisco arrive to its international airport, SFO, though some also fly to its cross-harbor counterpart, Oakland International. Modern, well-connected and free from the loathed TSA (SFO has private security), SFO is typically a hassle-free experience that's made even better by its rail connection to downtown San Francisco and Oakland.
LAX and Burbank are the two airports that serve Los Angeles, though the metro, which includes Orange County, has five airports altogether. Burbank is a fairly small airport that's conveniently situated for visitors staying in the Valley. LAX, on the other hand, is a big, mess of an airport that's prone to long waits and lengthy commutes into the city.
Most travelers will have no choice but to fly into LAX, at which point they'll want to rent a car and drive far far away. To the north, cool Los Angeleno neighborhoods like Santa Monica and West Hollywood make for great holiday options. While to the south, all of Orange County lies in wait – Disneyland, Laguna Beach and a lot more.
It's all about Disney World in Orlando, the world's number one family friendly travel destination. Sure, the city has other great theme parks – SeaWorld and Universal Studios – but none have left their mark on the city like Disney World. The variety of the park alone is astonishing, as it has several water parks, an animal safari park, a few different theme parks and Downtown Disney, an entertainment/nightlife center for adults.
Travelers fly to Orlando from around the world, but it's a particularly popular destination for New Englanders. In fact, New England is the only region in the United States that flies to Orlando more than Las Vegas.
Droves of travelers fly to Miami each year and they all come for one reason, the beach! OK, maybe that's a simplification, as the city also has excellent art museums, music festivals and a vibrant Latin American culture that can be seen, heard and tasted in neighborhoods like Little Havana. But the beach is pretty good too.
Two airports service Miami: Miami International and Fort Lauderdale, and both are pretty good choices for travelers, as each operates efficiently and has good flight connections. Miami International, however, is closer to the city and has more international flights.
With almost 16 million searches split between its three airports – JFK, LaGuardia and Newark – New York is the country's second most popular destination for fliers. The city is especially popular with international travelers, and receives more foreign visitors than any other American city.
What's all the fuss about? Oh, something about a plethora of world-class art museums, restaurants, shopping, live shows and nightclubs.
Las Vegas has gone back to its "Sin City" roots after its failed family-friendly campaign, and the city once again reigns supreme as the most popular travel destination in the United States – it's the destination of choice for fliers from 32/50 states.
Of course, its popularity is not very surprising as no other city in the world can offer the near-endless amount of activities and attractions that Las Vegas can. Hopper has been running a series of travel articles on Las Vegas that highlight some of its non-gambling related fun: celebrity chef restaurants, pool parties, bizarre museums and nearby national parks, are a few examples.