Airport Officials Working to Bring Lower Fares

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For the fourth month in a row, passenger numbers are down at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, the past two months, in the double digits.

Officials are hoping to tackle the problem head on, suggesting their prices aren't competitive enough to keep customers flying into Bay County.

With airports in Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach offering flights, sometimes more than $100 cheaper, officials are taking notice.

"We're having discussions with our air carriers to talk about the pricing side of that so we both understand the impacts of having a higher fare here,” said Executive Director John Wheat.

But higher ticket prices haven't stopped people from flying. While numbers are down when looking at months comparatively, passenger traffic is up overall for the year. Many fliers saying it's simply more convenient to fly here.

"We did look at flying into Pensacola or Ft. Walton," said Carolyn Grupe who had been visiting family in Panama City and was flying home to Minnesota, "but the distance was just too far so we chose this one."

"The differences from some of the other airports in the Panhandle didn't really make that much difference for having to you know, travel all that way in a car and arrange that," said Dan Harrington.

Even residents who live closer to other airports are choosing to fly out of Bay County. Destin resident Jeff Straus says he simply prefers the ease of flying out of Bay County and not much can be done to change that.

"If they provided free transportation from my house to the airport, that would sway me, that's never going to happen, so I'm coming here," he said.

Aside from talking to air carriers about lowering their prices, officials also are hoping to bring in another company, hoping the competition will lead to lower airfares.

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