Airport Leaders Looking at Passenger Traffic and Rates - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Airport Leaders Looking at Passenger Traffic and Rates

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Passenger traffic at Northwest Florida Beaches International airport is down, dropping four months in a row. It was down by almost 13% in December.

Executive Director John Wheat says he isn't concerned. At the end of 2012, the airport was the second largest airport in the panhandle market. They had 23-percent of the market share, behind Pensacola's airport.

Even though Wheat feels the airport is doing well, leaders are taking a look at the passenger decreases. Southwest recently dropped their flights to Orlando and canceled one flight to Baltimore between November and February.

Wheat said that took away seats to and from Bay County.

However, can Northwest Florida Beaches International compete with other airports in the panhandle and attract people to the Bay County's beaches?

Wheat said, "the challenges we have right now is . . . we do not have four air carriers serving here or two or three major carriers serving here."

That is one of the keys to keeping air fares low. Pensacola, Tallahassee and Fort Walton all have more than two air carriers. Airport leaders plan to sit down with Delta and Southwest to discuss costs and with other air carriers they could potentially bring in.

"Their pricing models are going to be priced on what's the most I can get in any of my markets with the competition that I have. This is a unique market here so we will continue those discussions and see if we can make some head way," said Wheat.

Despite the cost difference, Wheat is confident in what the airport and area has offer. Also, in March, Southwest will add a third flight to Houston and new service to St. Louis.