Airports Battle Carriers' High Fares

A one-way ticket from Greensboro, N.C., to New York costs $691 on Delta Air Lines, while a trip to New York from nearby North Carolina airports in Raleigh and Charlotte costs $173, the Wall Street Journal reports. The difference has nothing to do with distance—Charlotte is a bit farther from New York than Greensboro. Instead, thinks Greensboro airport head Henry Isaccson, the difference is due to price gouging. Delta faces discount-airline competition in Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, but not in Greensboro. Different competition, different ticket prices. For many years, discount airlines have effectively set ticket prices for U.S. consumers as airlines match fares wherever they compete directly. That divided communities into "haves" and "have-nots." Airports that have discount-airline service sport cheaper fares, and many customers drive long distances to them to save money. Big airlines have tried in the past several years both to lower their costs so they could afford to price more like their competitors, and to simplify their pricing to lessen the disparities and make ticket prices more uniform. But there are still big differences, which could be growing worse as big airlines cut back on domestic service and drive prices higher in markets where they don't face fare pressure. In Greensboro, ticket prices were 26.4% higher in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The airport reports that total passenger traffic is down nearly 18 percent this year. Delta's passenger count is down 32 percent. As a result, the have-nots are trying to find new ways to fight back. Greensboro officials traveled to Phoenix to plead their case with US Airways management, which agreed to lower prices to 33 markets from Greensboro. However, several trips to Atlanta to woo Delta officials were unsuccessful, so Mr. Isaccson sent a blistering letter to Delta Chairman Gerald Grinstein and then made it public.

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