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Sticker shock: Colorado air fares soared above the rest in the first quarter

August 4, 2014 Updated: August 4, 2014 at 8:30 pm
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photo - Travelers are seen cast in silhouette as they wait in line at the American Airlines checkin counter at the Colorado Springs International Airport in Colorado Springs in this December photo. (Kent Nishimura, The Gazette)
Travelers are seen cast in silhouette as they wait in line at the American Airlines checkin counter at the Colorado Springs International Airport in Colorado Springs in this December photo. (Kent Nishimura, The Gazette) 

Airfares in Colorado Springs increased more than in any city in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same period a year ago. It's the third time in the past four quarters that the city has had the nation's biggest fare increase, according to a quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The average price of a round-trip flight from the local airport in the January-to-March quarter rose nearly $52, or 13.2 percent, to $443.49. The next-highest average fare increase during the same period was 8.2 percent for flights from Orlando, Fla.

For the quarter, the local average fare was $63 higher, or 16.6 percent, than the national average, making the Colorado Springs Airport the 12th most expensive of the nation's 100 largest airports.

Still, there's some good news in the statistics over the long term. Local fares are only $20 higher than they were in the first quarter of 2012, and $10 higher than the first quarter of 2011.

During the same three-year period, the average fare nationwide increased just $4.55, or 1.2 percent, to $380.69. The average fare at Denver International Airport rose 41 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $334.47, or $109 less than the average in the Springs.

The latest fare report comes as the local airport is working to recover from Frontier Airline's departure from the Springs market in April 2013. In May and June, the airport posted gains in passenger traffic when compared with the same month a year earlier, ending 15 consecutive months of declines. Traffic in May was up 151 passengers, or 0.3 percent, from May 2013, the first year-over-year increase since January 2013, and gained more strength in June, increasing 1,132 passengers, or 2 percent, from June 2013.

"Despite the back-to-back gains, however, passenger numbers for the first half of the year are still down 9.7 percent from a year ago to 296,860, and continued gains likely will become more difficult in September, when United Airlines halts its daily flight to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C.

Airport director Dan Gallagher said airport officials continue to have "very positive discussions" with airlines about expanding to the Springs or adding additional flights to their existing schedules.

Gallagher said he expects the local fare disparities to moderate by the current quarter, the first time when Allegiant Air's new Phoenix/Mesa flight will be included in the statistics, and comparisons to a year earlier will not include Frontier flights. Allegiant's average round-trip fare on the route is $96.

The two cities with the largest declines in average fares in the first quarter, compared with a year earlier, were Bellingham, Wash., and Phoenix-Mesa, two airports served either only by Allegiant or where the carrier has a major presence.

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