In the transportation department's ranking of the top 100 U.S. airports from most to least expensive,90 airports were more expensive than Fort Lauderdale, and 83 more expensive than West Palm Beach in the second quarter, the latest available. Palm Beach International has fewer low-fare carriers than Fort Lauderdale, but is similar in that no one carrier dominates.
"You've got everybody and their brother," airport marketing manager Dick Haller said. "It's been like that for a while."
One increasing difference between the two airports is the schedule of Spirit Airlines, which had the largest market share at Fort Lauderdale over the summer, but didn't even fly to West Palm Beach. The Miramar-based airline resumed its winter seasonal service to Palm Beach International on Nov. 15 with two daily flights.
Analysts say Spirit, which doesn't report its average fare to the public, helps lower ticket prices at airports it serves even as fares in general are rising. Airlines have raised fares seven times since Labor Day to offset soaring fuel prices, but that didn't stop Virginia and Rafael Ordonez from getting a bargain.
The couple owns a carpentry business in Guatemala City, where Spirit began a route to Fort Lauderdale in May. Rafael Ordonez had heart surgery in Miami last year and had to return for follow-up treatment in November.
Although they had never traveled through Fort Lauderdale, the couple booked a flight on Spirit. The big lure was the fare, an eye-popping $315 for two round-trip tickets.
Interviewed before heading back home, Virginia Ordonez said they had no complaints and would fly through Fort Lauderdale again, primarily to save for Rafael's medical bills. The best round-trip fare on American Airlines, which serves Guatemala City nonstop from Miami, is $350 for each ticket.
"It was cheaper to fly with Spirit," Ordonez said.
Tom Stieghorst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-810-5008.
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