Flying out of Tallahassee often pricey

Tallahassee International Airport has seen an increase in passengers flying in and out of the capital city.
Photo submitted by Alea Williams

Tallahassee International Airport’s motto, according to its website, is to offer a safe, welcoming, and convenient travel experience; its primary focus is to always provide an exceptional way to fly.

But reality often classes with the airport’s motto.

“I hate flying out of Tallahassee airport. They charge a ridiculous amount of money, just one way and it’s hard to get back to New York for the holidays,” said Armando Michael, a junior biology major at Florida State University.

Even some airline employees believe it’s rare to get a fair rate when flying out of or into Tallahassee.

“Tallahassee flights are too expensive because of local taxes being too high. That leads to higher costs for the airlines, which leads to lower traffic numbers, which leads to smaller aircraft, which leads to higher prices per seat,” said Randy Kyser, an American Airlines customer service representative at Tallahassee airport.

For example, the least expensive ticket for a Thursday flight to Chicago from Tallahassee was $411; from Orlando, $102; from Jacksonville, $74; and from Atlanta, $216.

The three airlines offered at the airport are American, Delta and Silver Airways.

“So, ticket prices (are) something that we’ve focused on. It comes down to the basics of supply and demand; the prices are set by airlines, and a small percent of it is from the airport. The airport acts as a landlord, and tenants as the airlines, we lease out space to them. Labor, fuel prices and operating costs the aircraft. Airlines set those prices,” said Jim Durwin, Interim deputy director of aviation for the Tallahassee airport.

According to a Tallahassee airport survey, some customers think that the airport is a deciding factor in flight prices, when really it only oversees the prices and the airlines control the pricing for flights.

“I think market size is definitely a factor. It’s a function of what our population is, some of the counties next to us are not likely to fly, given their size and frequency. It’s their mission statement to make money, not necessarily to make money and or invest back into the community. Their mission is to make a profit for the shareholders,” said Durwin.

Michael believes students are often “stuck” when it comes to choosing an airport.

“It’s difficult for me to find transportation to other airports like Panama City or Atlanta. But, when I do I save at least a few hundred dollars in ticket fare,” said Michael.

Airline employees voiced concern for their custumers. “We are very aware of the customer comments. We do surveys and benchmarking and to make sure we’re being competitive in our region. I try to offer exceptional customer service, that you’re not going to get at some of these other airports in nearby cities,” said Bryant Newman, a Delta Airlines customer service representative at Tallahassee airport.

Tallahassee airport has seen double-digit growth within a year. The leadership at the airport is very proud of their quick success and want to continue to make the airport more appealing to both customers and airlines, Durwin said.