published Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Chattanooga Airport fares 2nd best in state, study says

The Chattanooga Airport terminal.
The Chattanooga Airport terminal.
Photo by Dan Henry.

CHEAPEST AIR FARES

Average fares at Southeast airports, and their U.S. ranking, vary widely:

• 1. Charleston, S.C., International, $191

• 27. Memphis International, $342

• 43. Chattanooga Airport, $372

• 71. Nashville International, $417

• 73. Atlanta International, $426

• 87. Birmingham International, $484

• 91. McGhee Tyson, $500

Source: Cheapflights.com

  • photo
    Andrew McKinney removes baggage from an American Eagle flight at the Chattanooga Airport in this file photograph from June.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

Chattanooga Airport has the second cheapest average air fares among the state's major airports, according to a website that tracks ticket prices, with higher passenger boardings helping drive down the cost.

Lovell Field's fares in June averaged $372, or No. 43 among 101 airports nationally, said Cheapflights.com. Only Memphis International Airport had a less expensive average fare -- $342, or No. 27, in the state, according to the website.

Chattanooga Airport's average ticket price also was less than Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which was No. 73, at $426. Many Chattanooga area travelers drive to Atlanta's airport to fly, studies show.

Terry Hart, Lovell Field's chief executive, said Chattanooga boardings are up about 15 percent so far this year over last and airlines are making fares more competitive.

"The way the airlines have been pricing has worked out well for us," Hart said. "I truly believe it will continue that way."

Emily Fisher, a Cheapflights.com spokeswoman, said that one reason Chattanooga's are cheaper than much larger Atlanta airport is that connecting flights are sometimes less costly than nonstops.

"If you're willing to connect ... you might get a better fare," she said. "It's more affordable in some situations."

Most Chattanooga flights connect to a hub airport, such as Atlanta, Chicago or Charlotte, N.C., while Atlanta offers many nonstops.

Hart said Lovell Field officials have seen and heard about the lower fares from fliers.

"People are checking [Chattanooga]," he said.

The airport chief said he believes Chattanooga is handling more fliers from North Georgia and from the Knoxville area, citing less costly fares and the convenience of traveling from Lovell Field.

"It's very encouraging," he said.

Hart also said that Delta Air Lines is flying larger aircraft out of Chattanooga. Last year, it started flying a 150-seat MD-88 into the city. On occasion, Delta is flying a 110-seat aircraft into the city, he said.

Hart said 50-seat regional jets, usually flown by a Delta affiliate, are on the decline for economic reasons. He expects more frequent larger airplanes flying into the city from not just Delta but American Airlines as well.

George Hudson, a local traveler, said he's pleased to see the larger planes.

"I have avoided Delta for years because of their small tin-can commuter planes and poor service," he said. "There are some destinations, however, that require a Delta flight. Imagine my surprise when I selected seats on a MD-88 and 717. I'm glad to see Delta, the real Delta, return to Chattanooga."

Cheapflights.com said its rankings fluctuate year to year and that prices can change frequently and dramatically along routes.

The website said there a few takeaways from its survey.

"Do your research, check out your options, and if you can, be flexible with your travel plans," the report suggests.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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