The average business fare from Augusta has been cheaper this year than those offered at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, according to a five-month Augusta Regional Airport survey.
The survey, based on fares to Augusta's top 20 destinations, compares prices with Augusta Regional's top competitors - Columbia Metropolitan and Hartsfield Atlanta International.
"The spread is narrowing," airport spokeswoman Kathryn Solee said.
Leisure fares from Augusta and Columbia remained the same during the study, which began in October using local travel agencies' reservations systems.
Before the study, the average business fare out of Augusta was a little more than $800. Two weeks ago, that average fell to $530 - about $200 cheaper than Columbia. Business fares are tickets purchased on short notice that do not involve a Saturday night stay.
Atlanta's fares remained cheaper than both airports', although leisure fares, which require a 21-day advance purchase and a Saturday night stay, were only $30 cheaper.
Augusta remained the most expensive of the three for walk-up fares - tickets purchased with no advance notice.
According to the Air Transport Association, an industry trade group, domestic airfares dropped 13.6 percent in February as airlines tried to reverse the loss of passengers after Sept. 11.
But Ms. Solee said she cannot pinpoint why certain fares in Augusta would drop without a change in carrier service.
"It's certainly a combination of what's going on in the market, competition, feedback from passengers, feedback from the airport, business situations within the carrier that (we) will never understand," Ms. Solee said.
David Castelveter, a spokesman for US Airways Express, said it was company policy for the airline not to discuss pricing.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines spokesman Kent Landers said he did not believe that the airline made an official fare adjustment in Augusta. He said the drop was probably a response to changing supply and demand for Augusta's tickets.
"But this is encouraging for your market," he said, "that the fares are competitive."
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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