When flying, all's fare; Bangor airport struggles to compete in regional ticket-pricing game

When snowbirds Everett and Carol Murch of Searsport are visited by Floridian friends in the summertime, the couple asks them to do one thing in return for the hospitality - fly into Bangor. Bangor is conveniently located within an hour's drive...

"Once you overnight, travel and pay for parking at other airports, it's just easier to come here," Faircloth said while waiting in the BIA domestic terminal for her mother to arrive from Florida.

It may not surprise anyone that parking fees are the top revenue source for Portland and Manchester airports, and it ranks third in Bangor. BIA anticipates that $973,000 of the annual $6.17 million in revenue, or 15 percent, will come from parking fees this year, according to Risteen Masters, marketing director at BIA. The Manchester airport's operating revenue is nearly $45 million a year, and management anticipates this year $25 million of that will come from parking fees alone, said O'Neill.

Many travelers will pay expensive parking fees at other airports to get lower airfares.

The quickest solution to Bangor's ticket price struggle is promoting tourism, said Bob Ziegelaar, president of Telford Aviation Inc. and former director of BIA. Tourism would stimulate business in Bangor, boost population and create a higher demand for the airport, he said.

"The airport, and Rebecca Hupp by herself, cannot make Bangor a more attractive location," said Ziegelaar. "Bangor by itself is not a tourist attraction. It's not a single airport or municipal issue; it's really a state issue, and we need to concentrate on attracting tourism and developing our own market."

The Manchester airport wrestled with lofty ticket prices several years ago, and O'Neill offered two pieces of advice to BIA officials and Bangor area residents.

"Bangor needs to continue to work with the airline community to keep prices competitive," said O'Neill. "The business community in the Greater Bangor area, whenever possible, needs to support the local airport. If you fly out of Portland, you just validate what the airlines think."

Fast facts

. Approximately 415,000 passengers used BIA in 2006.

. Approximately 1.4 million passengers used Portland International Jetport in 2006.

. Approximately 3.9 million passengers used Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in 2006.

. Approximately 27.7 million passengers used Boston Logan International Airport in 2006.

. 17 percent of Bangor International Airport's passengers book tickets using an online booking agency (such as Expedia or Travelocity); 37 percent book directly with the airline (buying at the ticket counter, over the phone, Web site, etc.); 46 percent book tickets with local travel agents.

. 85 percent of the passengers who use Manchester-Boston Regional Airport book their tickets online.

. 49 percent of BIA's passengers come from as far east as Lubec, north as Ashland and west as Bingham; the remaining 51 percent are from the remaining portions of northern and western Maine, cutting off entirely near the Lewiston area.

. 7 percent of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport's passengers are from Maine.

. 40 percent of Portland International Jetport's passengers are traveling for business.

. 35 percent of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport's travelers are business passengers.

Source: Airport officials

Parking fees

Bangor International Airport

$7 maximum daily charge (long-term)

$42 maximum weekly charge

Portland International Jetport

$10 maximum daily charge (long-term - garage)

$8 maximum daily charge (long-term - surface)

Manchester-Boston Regional Airport

$17 maximum daily charge (long-term - garage)

$85 maximum weekly charge (long-term - garage)

$10 daily charge (long-term - surface)

Boston Logan International Airport

$24 daily charge (garage)

$18 daily rate (economy lot)

$108 weekly rate (economy lot)

Source: Airport Web sites

Mileage from Bangor

To Boston Logan International Airport - 233 miles.

To Manchester-Boston Regional Airport - 226 miles.

To Portland International Jetport - 132 miles.

Source: MapQuest

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