Piedmont Airport Numbers Decline, but Some Hope Seen

Leigh Ann Hinerman of High Point likes the convenience and accessibility of Piedmont Triad International Airport.

Still, like many other travelers from the Triad, she finds herself not flying from there as much as PTIA's larger neighboring airports in Charlotte and Raleigh.

The reason? Fares.

Hinerman, a 27-year-old occupational therapist who lives 10 minutes from PTIA, is flying out of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport for an upcoming trip because she could save $200 per ticket booking through Scully Travel of High Point.

"I don't mind using Piedmont Triad International, and I prefer it because it's smaller," she said. "The only reason I've gone out of Charlotte is for cost."

Cheaper overall fares have driven travelers to Charlotte/Douglas and Raleigh-Durham International Airport, meaning that PTIA posted its 12th consecutive month of passenger declines in May.

Still, PTIA Executive Director Ted Johnson said Tuesday in releasing the figures that he sees reason for hope. The numbers were released at the monthly meeting of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority.

All carriers serving PTIA except Northwest and Delta airlines had better boardings last month compared to May 2005.

Also, American Airlines will start two daily nonstop flights between PTIA and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Sept. 6, said authority Chairman Henry Isaacson.

However, Johnson acknowledged in an interview after the meeting that fare pressures from Charlotte/Douglas and RDU have hurt PTIA's boardings.

Charlotte/Douglas and RDU regularly have lower fares, said Barbara Dail, manager of Mann Travel.

For example, a round-trip flight to Sacramento, Calif., in October would cost $248 out of Charlotte/Douglas and $357 out of RDU, but it would cost $539 out of PTIA, Dail said.

"We don't have low-fare carrier competition out of Greensboro right now," Dail said. "It takes about an hour and 10 minutes to drive to either of the other airports and both are off interstates." RDU has Southwest Airlines, and Charlotte/Douglas has AirTran, while both airports recently recruited the discount carrier JetBlue. Meanwhile, PTIA's marquee discount carrier, Independence Air, folded in early January.

"When we had a low-budget carrier, Greensboro did price less," Dail said.

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