TALLAHASSEE, FL. (WTXL) - For years the Tallahassee business community has said air-travel is a major factor when it comes to expanding business and recruiting quality companies and jobs to the Tallahassee market. It's often too expensive to get out of town by air even for fun.
If you Fly out of The Tallahassee International Airport you're going to pay a price. It can sometimes be so expensive, people opt to travel to Jacksonville, Orlando and Panama City to get cheaper tickets, in some cases a difference of $100 to $300. So the $100 question, why fly local?
Jay Revell the Executive Director of Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority says, "I think people think in their head, am I willing to pay for the convenience of flying out of my home town?"
Revell a local business leader has been flying in and out of the Tallahassee International Airport for years. He says, the biggest sell for the airport is convenience, "Curb to gate, security lines are pretty much nonexistent, it's very easy to get in and out of our airport."
As the area continues to grow so does the demand for more flights to more destinations at a cheaper rate, It's an issue city leaders are trying to fix.
Commissioner Scott Maddox with the City of Tallahassee says, "We've lowered the parking fees to make it where people can come and park there cheaper. We've done some terminal renovations and we're in the process of doing that now to make it more convenient for folks to fly in and out of Tallahassee. The main thing we're doing is working with the airlines to try and get more flights and lower fares out of Tallahassee."
And that's the key, lower fares.
A two to four hour drive to a larger hub can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. According to Priceline.com and Cheapflights.com a flight from Tallahassee to Dallas can set you back close $500. But that same flight from Jacksonville to Dallas is around $200.
According to Aviation Director Chris Curry with The Tallahassee International Airport, "The challenge for small to mid-size airports is how do we get more capacity into the market. The more capacity the less the customer pays for ticket prices."
Recognizing the challenges, the city has made some major renovations to its terminals, security lanes and baggage area.
Curry says, "Tallahassee has done a great job with our major carriers Delta and American by getting rid of the smaller regional jets. What that does is help the pricing of the airport. If you have larger jets hopefully you are getting more capacity and you're spreading cost over a larger group of people oppose to a regional jet where you're are spreading the cost among 50 people."
Curry says, they're campaigning to get more carriers in the airport to provide competition and additional destinations, all designed to lower fares, "We've applied for a small community air service development grant for $750,000, which will bring United Air Service hopefully into the airport to serve Houston from Tallahassee."
According to Curry, Tallahassee may never be a location where tons of direct flights are offered. But with more connections to major hubs, he hopes that will translate into more local dollars.
Maddox says, "First the more carriers we have going in and out of Tallahassee the more destinations. So currently there are some holes that we need to fill of places you have to fly to somewhere else to get that you can't get to from Tallahassee and we're hoping to fill those holes."
The Tallahassee International Airport has close to a $400 million economic impact on the area. And with this year's International Designation, more international cargo and commercial flights will make Tallahassee a first stop entering the continental U.S. Still getting cheaper flights for the average flyer is still a work in progress.
According to Maddox, "If you are a family of five and you're flying across the country it may be cheaper for you to drive to a hub. But when you put in what you have for gas, what you have for a hotel or for parking and you add that to the fare structure most times Tallahassee is going to be the most cost efficient option."
Revell says, If you're someone who has been on a long business trip and you're thinking about flying back into a Tampa, Jacksonville, Atlanta or Orlando then you've got a ride ahead of you.
With the new designation The Tallahassee International Airport is looking to move 9.5 million pounds of freight each year. Officials are hoping that will mean more jobs at the airport and more revenue for the city and county.
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