Flying from Detroit-Metro International Airport to Trenton-Mercer Airport. Ticket purchased on flyfrontier.com and booked nearly two weeks out. No checked baggage, no extras, no trip insurance.
Our one-way flight cost, in MONEY:
$35: One-way taxi between airport and Trenton Transit Center
$15: One-way NJ Transit train ticket
$2.50: NYC subway
Our one-way flight cost, in TIME (before boarding):
20 minutes: NYC Subway to Penn Station
20 minutes: early for the NJ Transit train
1.5 hours: NJ Transit train (no delays)
20 minutes: taxi to Trenton Airport (no traffic)
1.5 hours: pre-flight airport time
= 4 Hours
Comparing these totals for each of the other three New York airports varies depending on starting point and other airline airfare. For example, if we were to take our usual flight between LaGuardia and Detroit, it would cost us $170 each way for airfare plus a $25 taxi ride to total $195 one-way. Total time cost would average 2 hours (before boarding).
Boarding in Detroit was really the best part of the entire trip, because Detroit-Metro Airport is a joy to travel from (or to!). The flight itself was uneventful, although we were a bit sad to see that absolutely nothing was complimentary, not even sodas ($1.50 per can) and not the LiveTV on the postage stamp-size screens (swipe your credit card to continue watching after about 20 intro minutes).
We landed at Trenton, and had the choice of disembarking down a ramp at the front of the aircraft, or stairs at the rear. From there, a short walk across the pavement brought us to a portable, temporary building which was serving as the baggage claim. Were we even in the right place? With no bags to claim, we left there and found ourselves on a plain sidewalk outside, leading up to the parking lot. A few vehicles waited, with some taxis. There is no bus stop at the terminal, but rather a bus does stop during limited days and limited hours a couple blocks away, and takes around an hour to reach the Trenton Transit Center.
From Trenton Transit Center, there are options to take the SEPTA or Amtrak to Philadelphia, or the NJ Transit train or Amtrak to NYC, with intermediate stops in New Jersey. Seats on the Amtrak train to NY Penn Station began at $40 one-way, the day we checked. Meanwhile, NJ Transit is steady at $15.
Still we're not totally sure if Trenton works as a substitute New York airport for your needs. Below, we break it down:
When it makes sense:
Youíre desperate. You have a last-minute need for a flight and you donít mind if it were to leave from Newark-Liberty Airport. Youíre traveling light, and your budget is extremely tight. Airfares are looking high for the major NYC-area airports including Newark, but a Frontier flight from Trenton to your destination is hundreds of dollars less. The weather is good (you donít want to be stuck with non-working NJ Transit trains, or a flight delay or cancellation in Trenton).
Youíre curious about Trenton Airport.
You have a rule to buy only the cheapest flight, so long as itís taking off from an airport within easy transportation.
When it doesnít make sense:
Youíre traveling with children.
Youíre traveling with checked luggage.
Youíre a nervous traveler who doesnít enjoy change.
You have limited time.
You have status on another airline and enjoy earning frequent flyer miles.
The airfare for NYC-area airports is within budget.
You have an aversion to NJ Transit or New Jersey.
Conclusion? Trenton as the new Newark = no. Trenton as a Philadelphia option = much better.