Will Rogers, Tulsa Airports Busier in July Than Last Year

Aug. 13--A busy summer traveling season translated into heavy traffic at Oklahoma's airports in July, but high fuel prices could cool that trend in August.

More than 1 million people have flown out of Will Rogers World Airport so far this year, according to numbers compiled by the airport.

The 169,630 people who boarded planes at Will Rogers in July boosted the airport's overall traffic to 1,034,065.

That's up 5.41 percent compared with traffic counts from the first seven months of 2004.

"I guess the good news that the summer travel season that we were projecting is becoming a reality," said Karen Carney, airport spokeswoman. "We certainly felt that our numbers were going to be there. Our parking lots and parking garage have been full throughout the month."

The increase in travelers comes as the airport is completing $110 million in renovations and construction of a new terminal. New construction at the airport allows for gates to be added if additional carriers came to the airport.

A solid trend of increasing traffic at the airport could help the Oklahoma City airport secure new flights and airlines, Carney said.

"We can pretty much say people are flying to and from Oklahoma City, and this is a trend," Carney said. "We've got the numbers to show that, and that helps when you are talking to the airlines."

In Tulsa, the number of people flying out of the airport increased by more than 10 percent over July 2004's numbers, according to airport figures.

Last month, 155,160 people flew out of Tulsa International Airport, which bested the July 2004 figures that showed 139,979 took flights out of the airport. Airport officials attribute the 10.85 percent increase to additional flights from Tulsa to Denver and families taking summer vacations before school starts. "This summer has been consistently good," said Mary Smith, spokeswoman for the Tulsa airport. "I think all our carriers are experiencing increases."

While airports saw healthy increases in their air traffic in July, high fuel prices and pricey airfares could stunt the numbers for August.

Major air carriers considered fare increases this week as the price of oil hovered near $67 a barrel. United Airlines, Delta Airlines and US Airways tagged a $10 to $20 fuel surcharge on to ticket prices Wednesday.

American Airlines, the largest domestic carrier, raised most of its U.S. fares by $10 on round-trip tickets Friday. In some markets, ticket prices went up by as much as $20 to match competitors.

Southwest Airlines didn't increase its fares but continues to keep an eye on the rising cost of fuel, spokeswoman Edna Ruano said. The low-cost airline could see an increase for some flights, but it likely wouldn't be more than $3, Ruano said.

"We're known for being the low-cost leader, and we're going to stick with that," Ruano said.

Fuel prices and high ticket prices already have slowed traffic at the Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport, said Barbara Whittington, airport manager.

The airport's traffic was flat for July, as 46 fewer people boarded American Eagle flights to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Last month 3,876 people flew out of Lawton. That's less than a 1 percent increase from the July 2004 figures.

"All I can think of is the cost of fuel might be affecting the cost of airline tickets," Whittington said. "Ticket prices are going up, that's what people are telling me."