(WFRV)- Soon the cold weather will return to northeast Wisconsin. For many, winter is the perfect time to hop on a plane and fly off to a warmer destination. However, deciding where you fly from - could impact your bottom line considerably.
Each day, the terminals of the Outagamie County Airport in Greenville and Austin Straubel Airport in Ashwaubenon, fill with people traveling for business or pleasure. People like Tim Lau, who flys out of Austin Straubel because it is convenient for his business. "Convenience, easy in easy out - great success flying out of Green Bay," said Lau.
However, Martina Hall typically flys out of Milwaukee because she' has discovered it usually cost less. "There is a substantial difference," said Hall. "It is at least $200 sometimes."
One week ago - using the travel website Expedia - Local 5 compared the costs of roundtrip tickets to Orlando, Florida leaving Dec. 2 through Dec. 8, flying in and out of three airports: Outagamie County, Austin Straubel, and General Mitchell in Milwaukee. Airfares from Austin Straubel and Outagamie County started at $494 - but in Milwaukee at $236. We wanted to find out why.
"More carriers - more competition - lower fares from travelers, " said travel agent Amy Hobbins. Hobbins says from a pricing standpoint, the largest airports offer the lowest fares. "There are very well known low cost carriers that go from Milwaukee so all of the airlines try to keep pace with whoever has the lowest fare," said Hobbins.
Austin Straubel Airport director Tom Miller says over the years many airlines have operated at a loss in larger communities to gain market share and eventually turn a profit. In some cases - like Milwaukee - they still do.
"The other carriers are matching the Air Tran fare which tends to be the lowest," said Miller. But that strategy has a trickledown effect - leading to cost cutting measures within other markets those airlines also serve - and eventually higher fares. "Service out of Green Bay is profitable for all the carriers these past 8 months," said Miller. "But suffice it to say some of that is a reduction in capacity and an increase in fares."
MetJet CEO Mike Heisman is a bit more straightforward.
"The costs for that price war have to be spread to other markets and often that's the smaller markets where prices tend to increase."
Heisman says his company avoids the price wars as a public tour operator leasing the 162 seat, 737 - 800 jet. MetJet's airfares to the two destinations it serves, Orlando and Fort Meyers, are based on the average price charged by airlines serving Milwaukee.
"Sometimes they are more expensive," said Heisman. "Sometimes they are less."
Outagamie County Airport director Marty Lenss believes the difference in air fares between his airport and Milwaukee's - is driven primarily by high fuel costs and the reduced capacity of the smaller regional jets that service the Appleton area. Lenss feels the only way to change that is to draw more passengers in and to make them feel at home. "We want to make sure the overall customer service at the airport is second to none, " said Lenss.
But for many who fly through Green Bay or Appleton, the cost of the ticket isn't everything. "It's a matter of convenience over cost," said one traveler.