GREEN BAY, WI (WFRV)When it comes to air travel - everyone is looking for the best priced ticket. Low fares save those flying cash and help create loyal customers for airports. But low fares have typically been found in Milwaukee. And northeast Wisconsin's airports, Austin Straubel and Outagamie County Regional, are working hard to bring those fares to this area.
When it comes to searching for affordable airfares - Amy Hobbins says hold your breath.
"Airlines can change their fares hundreds of times a day," says Hobbins of Journey's Unlimited Travel. This Allouez based travel agent says good deals can be found, on travel websites likes Kayak - .with special features like flight tracker. "They'll tell you what the lowest fare is and ask you if you want an email is the fare goes down," said Hobbins. But wait too long and that good deal could be gone. "You can look one morning and it's $325, later in that day it's $565 dollars - that's just the reality of airline tickets."
"Planning ahead is definitely an advantage," said Mike Heisman, CEO of MetJet.
Heisman says airfares fluctuate for a number of reasons, but one factor plays a very large role.
"It comes down to classic - supply and demand." The founder of the De Pere based public tour operator says the sooner you book a flight, the less money you'll likely pay. Heisman says while his ticket fares are based on the average price for flights out of Milwaukee - to the two Florida markets he serves, outside of any special promotional offers - they too will change. "Different companies will use different methodologies. For us as the plane fills up typically our ticket price increases."
Typically the lowest ticket prices are found in Milwaukee. A cost comparison by Local 5 looking at ticket prices for roundtrip tickets to Orlando, Florida, leaving and returning from airports in Green Bay and Appleton versus Milwaukee showed about a $250 price difference. More carriers - more competition - lower fares. It's a fact not lost on travelers.
"People are cost conscious these days looking at the bottom line - if you can save $200 - $300 bucks driving an extra hour then it's worth it."
"It doesn't take too much figuring to make that two hour drive worth it."
"For reasons of cost comparison - at the end of the month that's where we'll save the most money."
But airport officials in northeast Wisconsin are working to change that, by filling terminals with more travelers each day. The more people who decide to fly local ...the more apt airlines are to bring in added service..
" When your operating at a 60% load factors, it's hard for an airport to recruit more service," said Marty Lenss , Outagamie County Regional Airport director. Both Austin Straubel and Outagamie County airports have spent tens of thousands of dollars on promotion and marketing to raise their profiles: TV spots, print ads and user friendly websites. Combined in 2012 - it amounts to $850,000. " I think it's a lot like other businesses in town, the mom and pop versus the big box store, "said Lenss. "The shop local messaging."
"We like to think to offer a lot of things to the passenger," said Tom Miller of Austin Straubel Airport. Miller says a project is underway at Austin Straubel to install a federal inspection station - which would allow international travel in-and-out of Green Bay. And while passenger counts are down industry wide...he's predicting expansion in service ahead. "I can't say that necessarily they'll be another airline, but I think we will see some expansion by carriers existing here in Green Bay." Meaning more options for airline travelers looking to fly local - in an industry where the price of a fare is constantly in flux.
Right now roughly 23% of Green Bay's potential customer base flys out of Milwaukee.