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GSP Airport hopes to land more passengers
2013/2/28 8:57:00

If you’ve ever driven to Charlotte or Atlanta to save money on airfares, you’re not alone.  At least half of all air travelers who live within a 50 mile radius of Greenville Spartanburg International Airport still “leak” to other, nearby airports.

Becky Bridges, who is taking her grandchildren to Hawaii for spring break, will save $1,100 by flying out of Charlotte.

“We can do a lot in Hawaii on that $1,000," Bridges told News 4’s Tim Waller.

Passenger leakage at GSP has improved in recent years.  In 2009, nearly 70 percent of Upstate passengers drove to other airports because the airfares were cheaper.  Today, roughly 50 percent drive to other airports, according to a recent study, though officials think the number may be lower.

"What we actually saw in study was a growing passenger base.  If we took the exact numbers and compared them apples for apples to what happened in 2009, I think we would see a lower leakage number,” said Dave Edwards, President & CEO of Greenville Spartanburg International Airport.

Traffic at GSP has spiked since the arrival of discount air carrier Southwest Airlines.  It increased 38 percent in 2011 and another 6 percent in 2012.  With the combined flights of Southwest, Allegiant, Delta, U.S. Airways and United, passengers have more choices than ever.

"My son is a senior at the Naval Academy and there were no directs from here to Baltimore-Washington. Im from Baltimore originally, so I get to see him frequently and get to visit my family. We save on average $150 on a roundtrip ticket," said Tony Shaw, who frequently flies on Southwest Airlines.

While many passengers still drive to Charlotte where airfares can be less expensive, data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows GSP is actually cheaper.  In 2012, the average price of an airline ticket at GSP was $397.  The average cost of airfare at Charlotte Douglas International Airport was $412.  Atlanta had the lowest average airfare of $369.

"You will always find those anomalies where its significantly cheaper to fly out of Charlotte than it is to go out of GSP, but thats becoming a more seldom experience than it used to be,” Edwards said.

Upstate fliers could also see more airlines at GSP in the future.  Edwards said JetBlue could offer direct service to New York and Boston, while Frontier Airlines could service Denver, for example. 

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