Up in the air: Reno vs. Sacramento | TheUnion.com

Up in the air: Reno vs. Sacramento

Eileen JoyceVicie Evans, manager at Giselle's Travel in Grass Valley, books travel plans for a customer Thursday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Summer travel season will see many people driving to Reno – not to gamble, but to take advantage of air fares lower than those out of Sacramento.

Travel agents say it can be cheaper to fly out of Reno to continental U.S. cities, but it depends on the destination.

Ticket prices called up by one travel agency, Giselle’s Travel of Grass Valley, showed no clear trend for the lowest base ticket prices seven to 14 days out, prices that can change daily. Some destinations were cheaper out of Reno; some cheaper out of Sacramento.

Trips to Honolulu, usually cheaper from Sacramento, had the same low price from both airports on one day last week – $460. The prices are subject to change.

Vicie Evans, manager of Giselle’s, said she wouldn’t say Reno is always cheaper. “It depends on the market,” she said.

Evans said the agency generally checks both airports for customers during warm-weather months. The agency doesn’t do that in winter unless the customer has a four-wheel-drive vehicle because of tricky driving conditions over Donner Pass on Interstate 80.

Jan Alford, owner of Adventure Travel, on Nevada City Highway in Grass Valley, said it’s generally less expensive to fly out of Reno.

That’s especially true if the flyer is heading out and coming back the same week, because the airlines have more relaxed rules in Reno for length of stays in getting low-cost fares, Alford said.

Usually there has to be a significant savings for travelers to fly out of Reno, she said.

“I don’t think people will go to Reno for $20, but maybe they’ll go for $200,” she said.

One of the keys to getting the best prices is to book early, said Alford, because airlines cut back on the number of flights after Sept. 11’s hijackings and terrorist attacks, leaving fewer discount seats.

Competition is one of the key factors determining air fares. Airline travel was deregulated by the federal government in 1978.

In general, the presence of a single discount airline, or relatively inexpensive airline, on a particular route will cause others to reduce prices on competing routes, said Anthony Sheppard, an assistant professor in California State University, Sacramento’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies.

In cases where nobody is discounting, or where there is little or no discounting on a particular route, prices remain high.

Flights to Honolulu have dropped to as low as $460 from both Reno and Sacramento. That is a decrease from $600 to $700 fares, which Evans attributed to Hawaiian Airlines, which will start flying out of Sacramento in June.


Recent lowest base air fares from Reno and Sacramento to six major U.S. destinations. The prices are for travel seven to 14 days out and don’t include taxes and other fees. Like all air fares, they are subject to change without notice.

Reno Sac

Washington, D.C. $252 $304

New York City $266 $238

Miami $244 $272

Las Vegas $92 $108

Boston $272 $238

Honolulu $460 $460

– Source: Giselle’s Travel,

Grass Valley

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