US Airways is cutting fares to 11 cities from Charlotte by as much as 59 percent, hoping to attract more fliers to one of the country's most expensive gateways.
Charlotte fliers have long complained about high fares, as US Airways' hub status has meant little competition. Since its merger last fall with America West, US Airways has said it would implement a simpler, lower fare structure across the company.
US Airways is still studying prices out of Charlotte and may announce more reductions in the future, a spokesman said, as it finds routes where lower prices could stimulate more demand. US Airways offers 121 nonstop destinations from its biggest hub.
"This is the first wave that's hit Charlotte," said Phil Gee. "Whether there's 10 more or one more wave, we don't know."
The fare reductions come with some strings: they must be bought 21 days in advance and require at least a one-night stay. They do not, though, require a Saturday night stay, the bane of many business travelers.
US Airways hopes the lower fares stimulate more demand on the routes, such as on the $217.10 round-trip fare to Pittsburgh.
"That's amazing," said Cheryl Pfeiffer, founder of Fluent Language Solutions in Charlotte. She travels to Pittsburgh often to visit clients and family.
When her company first started around 12 years ago, she found herself turning down some prospective business in Pittsburgh because she couldn't afford the airfare.
"I used to look at these $700, $800 fares and think I could get to Europe on that," she said. Now, she'll fly to Pittsburgh to visit family rather than make the seven-hour drive.
With lower fares to Providence, R.I., officials at Johnson & Wales University's Charlotte campus can also afford more trips to the school's headquarters, said Joseph Campos, the Charlotte campus' director of advancement relations.
Professors and administrators were worried when Independence Air made its last flight Thursday. The school had used the low-fare carrier often, before it shut down because of strained finances.
But the lowered fares still aren't low enough to entice all travelers.
Alex and Trish Horne visit relatives in Philadelphia a few times a year. The couple has been driving to Raleigh to take Southwest Airlines to Philadelphia for as little as $120 round trip.
When they learned the lowest Charlotte-Philadelphia round-trip on US Airways will drop 44 percent to $297.10, they weren't impressed.
"Oh, for crying out loud, that is no discount," Trish Horne said. "Not at all."
Even with higher gasoline prices, it's still cheaper for them to drive to Raleigh, they said.
"We would actually travel more often if the prices were cheaper," Alex Horne said.
And many fliers still want their favorite routes to enjoy the fare drops.
"Wow, US Air issues a notice about dropping fares, and then you read the details: It's to the great destinations of Lexington, Ky., Greenville, N.C." and other cities, said Tevis Vandergriff, a sales executive at Mergent, a financial data company in Charlotte. He likes to visit family in New Orleans.
"Hopefully US Air will be able to walk the lower fare talk."
Cities with lowered fares:
Lexington, Ky., $217.10
Richmond, Va., $217.10
Newport News/ Williamsburg, Va., $212.60
Chattanooga, Tenn., $217.10
Allentown, Pa., $297.10
Greenville, N.C., $210.50
Harrisburg, Pa., $217.10
Providence, R.I., $215.60
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