Low-fare airline commercials working

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You've probably seen the commercials - a flight attendant warning of the consequences if low-cost carriers leave the Richmond Airport.

The Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce is paying for these ads and so far, it says it's working.

AirTran saw a 17% bump in ridership last month compared to February of last year. Travelers we spoke to say they don't want to know what would happen if these low-fare airlines left Richmond.

"February is over," said Greater Richmond Chamber President Kim Scheeler. "Now we have to worry about March, we got to worry about April, then we got May so we can't stop."

If ticket sales go down, the chamber fears prices will go up - way up.

Donna Kelliher is in charge of travel and corporate services for Dominion Virginia Power. She says her company saves nearly a million dollars a year with low-fare airlines.

"Let's not forget the days we were spending $800, $1100 to fly respectively to Atlanta and New York," she said.

What do real passengers think? Jaime Cowen just returned to Richmond from Israel. He says there's been a dramatic difference in plane ticket prices since AirTran and JetBlue came to RIC several years ago.

"Until they brought in JetBlue and AirTran, I mean the fares were ridiculous," Cowen said.  "There's no question it drove the price down."

He says the commercials made him want to use the low-fare airlines more, but so far he hasn't.

"I haven't used them much because they haven't been convenient times," he said. "That's been the difficulty. I'd like to, to make sure that they stay here."

Hanna Reithel says she hasn't gone out of her way to use any specific airline.

"I look for the lowest fare at this point," she said. "I think most people do."

Southwest Airlines recently merged with AirTran and now that low-fare giant is looking at what it wants to do in Richmond.

The Save the Low Fares supporters say now is a critical time to make a good impression to convince Southwest to come to RIC.

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