Fort Wayne Airport Losing in Fare War

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- The top executive of Fort Wayne International Airport believes it is losing passengers who have been lured away by lower air fares that carriers are offering in Indianapolis.

Tory Richardson, executive director of the Fort Wayne airport, said Monday that the number of air passengers in June dropped by 13 percent compared with June 2004. The airport had seen passenger increases since September 2003, excluding a 1.5 percent decline last December.

He said that while fares were rising in Fort Wayne, they were dropping in Indianapolis, about 100 miles away.

''(People) are still flying. They're just not flying out of here,'' Richardson told the airport's board of directors.

He said as ATA Airlines cut service from Indianapolis, other carriers slashed prices to fill the void.

''Right now, they're after market share,'' Richardson said. ''It's pretty cutthroat.''

Richardson said ticket prices would eventually have to increase in Indianapolis, but acknowledged it would be difficult for the Fort Wayne airport to compete during the transition.

''While it's unfortunate it's not completely unexpected,'' he said of the decrease. ''This is going to be a tough year for everybody.''

Richardson said rising fuel prices have pressured the airlines to raise fares.

''Because airlines are increasing fares, we may not realize the growth we saw last year,'' he said.

Fort Wayne's air traffic in 2004 was its greatest since the 2001 terrorist attacks.