Airfare at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport has also decreased. FILE

Airfare decreases at local airports

Average airfare at airports in Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati has dropped in the past year, but still remains among the highest in the United States.

Five airports in the region rank in the top 50 most expensive in the country, including Dayton International Airport, John Glenn International Airport and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, according to the most recent data released by the Department of Transportation.

Nationally, the average domestic airfare decreased to $347 in the fourth quarter of last year, a 6.1 percent decrease from the $369 average at the same time in 2015.

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Dayton’s average fare is higher than the national average, and ranks as one of the more expensive airports in the region. It’s the 25th most expensive airport for average airfares compared to the top 100 largest airports.

The airport’s average airfare in the last quarter of 2016 was $392, but Dayton’s average ticket price is still going down, according to recent data. At the beginning of 2016, Dayton’s average airfare was $427. That was down from the $431 average airfare in 2015.

Good deals are still available at the airport compared to some larger hubs in the area, said Terrence Slaybaugh, Dayton’s aviation director.

He told this news organization that several discount flights have been added in the last year through Allegiant Air, and the airport was continuing to discuss new flights and services with other legacy and discount airlines. The airport has recently talked with JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines about adding new flights.

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“If you buy a legacy ticket, we’re usually cheaper,” Slaybaugh told this news organization. “That’s something that still drives traffic. But now with some of the service changes, we know people are leaving.”

The airport has struggled in recent years as travelers and airlines left for larger hubs — a trend impacting small and mid-sized hubs across the country. In June, Southwest Airlines will halt all flights at the Dayton airport in favor of adding services at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Low-cost carrier capacity at CVG was at 21 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to 16 percent during the same time two years ago.

In Cincinnati, airfare has declined significantly over recent years. In the fourth quarter of 2013, the average airfare was $528. Cincinnati’s current average fare of $367 decreased 12 percent compared to $419 in fourth quarter last year.

Mindy Kershner, spokeswoman for CVG, said the airport has been working diligently to lower costs, and said they are proud of their efforts. The airport has had multiple wins this year.

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In late January, Amazon announced it would invest $1.5 billion to build its global air cargo hub at the airport, adding more than 2,700 jobs. DHL also announced it was hiring 900 additional employees at the airport, and Delta Air Lines grew its capacity at the airport by 6 percent.

And in Columbus, the John Glenn Columbus International Airport has seen favorable growth like the Cincinnati airport.

In 2016, the airport recorded its second busiest year in airport history — serving more than 7.3 million passengers, and its average airfare has also decreased to $360. Average airfare at the Columbus airport was $388 at the beginning of 2016, and $414 at the beginning of 2015.

The airport attributes some of its success and passenger growth to customer satisfaction after completing an $80 million terminal modernization last year. It was then named the most improved airport in North America, and has several projects underway including a checkpoint expansion, the creation of nursing rooms, new concessions and updated customer service kiosks.

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“Passengers appreciate the ease of traveling through John Glenn International and rave about the modernized, contemporary terminal that showcases natural lighting and meaningful amenities such as free high-speed wi-fi, more than 2,000 charging outlets,” Roberts said.

Other regional airports aren’t as cheap as Ohio hubs, but still saw airfare decreases. Louisville International-Standiford Field’s average fare was $403 for the last quarter of 2016 — quite higher than the national average airfare, but down from $422 in late 2014. Indianapolis International Airport saw its fares slip faster — down form $420 in 2012 to $349 in late 2016.

Jay Ratliff, a local aviation expert, told this news organization that fares are slipping because low-cost airlines force legacy carriers to keep up with the competition. Carriers like Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines are forced to lower prices to match the cheap fares being offered by Allegiant, Southwest, Frontier and JetBlue.

“These larger airlines are being forced to compete, and as consumers we love it,” Ratliff said.

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