Brian Bystrom was flying to Detroit from Fort Wayne International Airport on Monday because his employer decided it was cheaper than renting a car for him to drive there.
Two weeks ago, Bystrom was in Newark, N.J., when his girlfriend, also from Fort Wayne, chose to fly from Indianapolis on a direct flight to see him there. She bought her ticket on priceline.com and saved about $150 compared to Fort Wayne fares, he said.
Airport Director Tory Richardson told the Airport Authority on Monday that a national push to raise fares has victimized Fort Wayne.
Higher fares are one reason the number of passengers departing Fort Wayne International last month was down 13 percent from the same time last year. According to airport figures, 29,045 people flew out of Fort Wayne last month, 4,333 fewer than a year ago.
He said because the area Fort Wayne International serves is smaller, Indianapolis will always be able to offer lower fares.
Low-cost carrier Northwest Airlines has significantly boosted its presence in Indianapolis, also keeping fares there low, Richardson said. Rising fuel costs represent another contributing factor, he said.
Departing passengers for all of this year are up by 2.3 percent compared to last year, to 166,425. March was the busiest month, with 30,069 passengers leaving Fort Wayne.
The Airport Authority approved a $2,088,742 bid for construction of the new parking lot.
Workers have demolished what was a Days Inn motel to make way for the parking lot, which will hold 600 vehicles and could be open by October. E&B Paving of Fort Wayne won the bid.
Richardson told the authority last month that hidden asbestos inside the motel would cost an extra $21,819 to remove, increasing the total cost to raze the building to $264,350. The airport purchased the land in January for $800,000.