Airfare spikes likely with gas hikes

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The unrest in the Middle East is driving up gas prices here at home. You've already seen the increase at the pump and now you'll be seeing it when you buy your next plane ticket.

The price increase is not good news for Richmond International Airport. RIC has seen passenger growth for the past six months, but that could change as airfares rise.

If you've hopped on a flight recently, you may not have gotten that empty seat next to you on the plane. That's because passenger traffic has steadily been climbing at RIC.

The airport saw less than a one percent increase last month compared to January of last year but that small bump marks the sixth straight month of higher traffic. Airport officials fear rising gas prices could cut down on passenger traffic at the airport.

"Now we're faced with spiking fuel," said Troy Bell, airport spokesman. "Whether it's just related to demand, or events in the Middle East, it's a challenge every day and that's one cost carriers cannot control."

So how has the recent spike in gas prices affected airfare? Many travelers we spoke to today say they haven't felt the pinch yet but they're afraid it might be coming.

John Ciardelli is a frequent flyer heading back to Columbus, Ohio. He says his flight home wasn't too expensive, but he's afraid it will be next time.

"If you get them far enough in advance they haven't gone up that much," he said. "But they're starting to creep up a little bit."

Gail Cerreta flies to Richmond every month from New York. She's noticed prices soaring already.

"The prices of the airlines have absolutely doubled," she said. "It's really difficult to get flights now."

Other travelers like Susie Goolsby say she's not sure she's willing to pay more to fly.

"The hassle of going through security," said Goolsby. "Matched with the prices you have to pay and then if you have to check a bag, forget about it, I'm going to cut down on traveling."

AAA says the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East could cause gas prices to hit $4.00 a gallon this summer, but the price could change in the blink of an eye if the situation settles down.

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