Shreveport works to cut fares at airport

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News,Business

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — There's potential for airfares at Shreveport Regional Airport to drop if a low-cost carrier or more flights are brought in to create competition among airlines, officials say.

Currently, Nevada-based Allegiant Airlines is the lone low-cost carrier at the airport. It provides nonstop service to Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas.

The Times reports (http://bit.ly/10KOmK4) recent fares listed on Airfare Watchdog show the Las Vegas trip can be booked for as little as $167 per round trip. That flight's low cost attracted nearly half of the 47,000 travelers who went to Las Vegas from Shreveport Regional in 2011, some of whom came from southeast Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Tim Wilhite, chairman of the Ark-La-Tex Regional Air Service Alliance, said that type of regional draw is what the airport needs to succeed.

And to lure more flyers, Shreveport Regional will need to offer more flight options and become a true "regional" airport, a goal his organization is focused on.

Business travelers are mostly concerned with the efficiency of getting to their destination and less with the cost associated with it, Wilhite said. That is part of the reason behind the airport's high fares, a 2010 airport study shows.

Wilhite's group's main focus over the next decade will be to gain access to as many airline hubs as possible because "it creates business opportunities for people here and for our business to get out," he said.

The more flight options available, the more business travelers will depart from Shreveport Regional rather than another location. That increase shows a demand for a service and also can lower fares, he said.

Local resident Mary Ann Smith and her family often fly to Mexico and New York City but those trips rarely depart from Shreveport Regional.

Flights to New York for her family of five are sometimes $1,000 more than it is to spend the night and fly out of Dallas, Smith said. But if fares drop at the airport, Smith said she would fly from Shreveport.

"It would definitely be more convenient," she said.

In 2010, the airport's leakage rate — or percentage of fliers who depart from another airport — was 30 percent.

"If you increase business travel then the recreational air travel will follow," Wilhite said.

Flying out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, there are multiple flights to a number of destinations around the same time competing for a traveler's business. That competition does not exist in Shreveport, Wilhite said.

"That is why we're talking to United about Chicago," he said.

Wilhite believes the addition of service to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport will create the competition needed to cause Delta Air Lines to lower its fares because that is what American Airlines did when the Denver service came on board. United Airlines told airport officials when the service matures they would be open to discussing nonstop Chicago service, airport spokesman Mark Crawford said.

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Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com

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