Branson, Airlines, and Fares

Mar 14 2009 Branson, Airlines, and Fares BY sgf-admin TAGS How the Airport Works


Mike blogs this:


"Hey what’s going on? I hear about Branson getting AirTran with service to Atlanta and Milwaukee. Now they got Sun Country airlines with service out of Minneapolis on a 737s and to add AirTran uses 717s. What do you think will happen? Do you think their fares will be consistently lower b/c they use large aircraft? Are any of the airlines at SGF talking about lowering prices?"


Let's cut to the chase and then explain why. We don't think the airport south of Branson will have much impact on our airport. Why? Because it caters to a very select crowd and the service will be very limited (in terms of options that if offers customers).


There will be SW Missourians who use it, but probably not in significant enough numbers for Springfield airlines to notice. If (and it's a big if) significant competition does emerge, it's likely that Springfield airlines will respond by cutting fares. And that would be good for customers at both airports.


Mike...I'm not picking on you, but I need to challenge a couple of your assumptions. First of all, a larger airplane does not, in and of itself, mean lower fares. Fares are determined by the fare structure, or, if you will, the business model being used by the airline. Simply put, an airline can have "low fares" on either big planes or small planes–depending on the business model and fare structure that the airline uses. There are dozens of variables that an airline juggles that help determine fares. The variables include the average distance traveled on an airline's route system, the size of its route system, the cost of fuel, the cost of labor, the cost of airplane maintenance, airport fees and charges, and, in the case of Branson, the amount of compensation received from the airport. The list goes on.


I sense that you're assuming that fares will be lower at the Branson airport and that they will be consistently lower. That's a huge assumption.


With all airlines prices go up and down. They have fire sales. They have introductory fares. And then there are the factors that customers sometimes forget about. For example, let's suppose you see an advertisement for AirTran that says you can fly from Branson to Atlanta for $79 one way. Well, that's good if you just want to go to Atlanta. But what if you're ultimate destination is somewhere else? Let's say you want to go to San Francisco. What's it going to cost you to fly to San Francisco from Atlanta? Is the total cost of flying from Branson to San Francisco less than the cost of flying from Springfield to San Francisco? Probably not. Of course, right now, we don't have anyway of knowing because the Branson service doesn't have a track record.


Now let's talk a little bit about what we do know about: the service in Springfield.


Our airport has non-stop service to 12 destinations (on May 3, when we start service to Los Angeles, we'll have 13 non-stop destinations). Five of those 13 destinations are on a low-cost airline, Allegiant Air. It's not unusual to find roundtrip fare on Allegiant for less than a hundred bucks. That means that sometimes you can go to Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Los Angeles for less that $100.


As for the other three airlines in Springfield (American, Delta/Northwest and United), there are good deals out there. In the past week I chatted with someone who found roundtrip fare between Springfield and Cozumel, Mexico for $330. That's on American! Another person told me about just booking roundtrip fare between Springfield and Seattle for $340.


Don't believe it? Check out one of those web sites that hunts for low fares. Here's some of what found on Friday:


  • $185 roundtrip to Chicago O'Hare on American. No minimum stay.
  • $213 roundtrip to Houston IAH on American, No minimum stay.

Or how about the weekend sales? Here's a sampling:


  • Albuquerque, NM   $202 roundtrip. United.
  • Chicago O'Hare $186 roundtrip. United.
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX $200 roundtrip. American.
  • Manchester, NH $264 roundtrip. United.
  • Missoula, MT $266 roundtrip. United.
  • Spokane, WA $274 roundtrip. United.
  • Washington Dulles, DC $220 roundtrip. United.
  • White Plains, NY $250 roundtrip. United.

People who say fares are always higher in Springfield are out-of-touch!


That’s probably more answer than you wanted Mike; I hope it all made sense within the context of your questions.

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