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Airline eases Hagerstown flight fares

August 31, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - If you're flexible with your travel dates, it just got cheaper to fly from Hagerstown to popular destinations throughout the country.

US Airways has realigned Hagerstown Regional Airport's fares with those offered at Washington, D.C., airports, reducing ticket prices by several hundred dollars, said Greg Larsen, Hagerstown Regional Airport's business development manager.

Hagerstown Regional Airport began its "LowFares" promotion three weeks ago. It is the same as US Airways' "GoFares" program.

The program is aimed at offering competitive ticket prices similar to those offered by discount airlines.

"When people start looking at these prices, they're going to think twice about not flying out of Hagerstown," Larsen said.

A representative with the airline that provides the US Airways flights to and from Hagerstown said the program hasn't increased passengers.

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"Actually, I would've expected to see (an increase) already," said Eric Vondy, senior pricing and revenue management analyst for Air Midwest. "We've even lost a few passengers over the past couple of months."

Air Midwest in July began providing four flights each to and from Hagerstown and Pittsburgh daily. Air Midwest is one of nine carriers US Airways uses for its express service to and from regional airports.

Vondy said the Hagerstown flights average 10 people per flight, down from 12 people per flight when the carrier began providing service in Hagerstown.

The maximum capacity of the aircraft used in Hagerstown is 19 people, Vondy said. Air Midwest uses a computer program to track its passengers, he said.

Larsen said he hasn't seen the passenger numbers to which Vondy referred.

"I really couldn't tell you," Larsen said. "That's news to me."

Larsen said it's too early to tell whether the LowFares program has increased the number of passengers flying from Hagerstown, but airport staff plan to review the numbers this week.

The number of hits on the airport's Web site, www.flyhagerstown.com, and the number of calls placed to the airport about flights have increased since the LowFares program was put in place. Larsen said those are indications that more people are becoming interested in the airport.

When the airport put its first ad in the newspaper promoting the fares on Aug. 10, the Web site had 740 hits, up from 260 hits the day before. The number of hits has spiked on the other days the program was advertised in the paper and on the radio, according to information provided by Larsen.

While the LowFares program makes traveling from Hagerstown significantly cheaper, Vondy said people are hesitant to fly US Airways because of its financial problems.

"That's kind of an indication that it's probably due to people being afraid to fly US Airways right now, where there's no reason to be," Vondy said.

Under the LowFares program, travelers can fly from Hagerstown to Orlando and back for fares starting at $148, according to US Airways' Web site.

The flights to and from Hagerstown make stops in Pittsburgh.

Larsen said flights from Hagerstown to Orlando used to run in the $400 range.

"And that's about the best you could have gotten," Larsen said.

Prices for round-trip flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., also start at $148, and start at $128 for flights to Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and $228 for flights to Las Vegas.

The lowest prices for one-way trips range from $64 to $99, according to US Airways' Web site.

Larsen said the LowFares flights apply to 30 to 40 destinations across the country.

The cheaper flights, however, come with some conditions. The LowFares trips are offered on certain days throughout the month, which means the cheapest tickets might not be available on days travelers want to fly.

In that case, travelers would have to choose flights that might cost from about $40 to several hundred dollars more.

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