New ads aim to keep low-fare airlines at RIC

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Thousands of Virginians have booked flights on low-cost airlines like AirTran and JetBlue -- flying in and out of Richmond International Airport.

Now the Chamber of Commerce has launched a new ad campaign to make sure the airlines stay in town.

JetBlue recently stopped flying from Richmond to New York City and now there are concerns about AirTran's future in Richmond with its pending sale to Southwest Airlines.

The Chamber is shelling out $600,000 trying to get more Richmonders to take to the sky.

The busiest travel day of the year was a week ago and now the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce is trying to keep that momentum going with a new ad campaign encouraging people to take low-cost airlines like AirTran and JetBlue. Flyers like Allison Anderson say the low-fare airlines made tickets on all airlines cheaper.

"Them coming in was supposed to give the other airlines more competition so that the prices will go down," she said. "I don't think they went down enough, but at least we had some competition and options."

The Chamber says we've already gotten a small taste of what might happen to prices if these airlines leave. AirTran recently grounded its flights to New York City, and now the Chamber says it'll cost you more than double to get to the Big Apple.

"There's no question that if the low-cost carriers leave the market, the prices go through the roof," said Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kim Scheeler.

Some travelers we spoke to say it was too expensive to fly out of RIC before the low-fare airlines came to Richmond, but now that they're here, they can afford to fly closer to home.

Travelers like Darryl Cousin fear his wallet might be lighter next time he flies if the low-cost airlines buy a one-way ticket out of Richmond.

"Once they're gone," he said. "There's no competition and they can remain at the prices they currently are and that means we're dishing out more moneys."

The chamber is aiming to add ten passengers a day on AirTran's flights to Atlanta. The Chamber says having affordable airfare drives economic development and makes Richmond a more attractive place to do business.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.