Air fares at GFIA rose at a slower pace last year

July 29, 2012
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According to the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, the ongoing efforts to diversify the air service at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport have resulted in airfare cost increases falling below the national average.

The alliance pointed out that the average domestic round-trip fare from GFIA rose 6 percent last year to $400, while the U.S. Department of Transportation reported airfares rose 8.3 percent nationally in 2011. Fares from Chicago’s Midway International Airport went up by 9 percent last year. O’Hare in Chicago and Metropolitan Airport in Detroit both recorded 6 percent increases in 2011, the same as GFIA.

“While our region is not immune to rising fuel costs or national fare increases, the unified effort of the private and public sectors to improve West Michigan air service is showing results,” said Dan Wiersma, executive director of the alliance, in a release.

“More robust competition at GFIA is holding down cost increases and giving business and leisure travelers more options to get to destinations around the world,” he added.

Wiersma said the key factors for containing fare increases were the addition of Air Tran to the airport’s lineup in 2010, and then convincing Southwest Airlines to keep the low-cost carrier at GFIA after it bought Air Tran in 2011.

The alliance reported it cost travelers only $22 more to fly from GFIA last year than to fly from Detroit Metro and O’Hare. “We’re proud that our work has helped make it more affordable to fly from our region’s airport than to drive hours to Chicago or Detroit,” said Wiersma.

Before Air Tran landed at GFIA, the airport was ranked in 2008 as being the third most expensive of the nation’s 100 largest airport. At the end of last year, GFIA fell to 17th on that list. But the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that airfares during the fourth quarter at GFIA rose by 16 percent, to $418 from $360, for the same three-month period a year earlier. The bureau also said the price rose by 10 percent nationally, on average.

The alliance was founded in 2008 to improve air service across West Michigan, from Kalamazoo north to Traverse City and from the lakeshore east to Lansing. Dick DeVos chairs the alliance.

“The Air Alliance of West Michigan is committed to close that (airfare) gap, and provide the ‘best-in-class’ commercial air service to local travelers,” said Wiersma.

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