Arkansas airports: Overpriced | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Arkansas airports: Overpriced

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 12:19 PM

UNFRIENDLY SKY: Writer says XNA is most overpriced airport.
  • UNFRIENDLY SKY: Writer says XNA is most overpriced airport.

By now, many have grown tired of my complaints about Little Rock National Airport price-gouging. One airport commissioner, particularly, says it's a lie to complain about increases in parking and other charges at the airport. He and others sing the praises of airport director, free-spending Ron Mathieu, for coming up with a way to stick airlines for fat payments that allow the airport to expand even as its passenger load has dropped over the last decade. These charges eventually make their way to passengers, naturally.

Looks like the unhappy airport commissioner now has another liar to complain about — Nate Silver.

Silver, the stats-driven blogger at the New York Times has produced a piece on "America's Most Overpriced Airports." Little Rock National ranks ninth on the list of the 10 most expensive midsize airports. Possible defense? It could have been worse. Northwest Arkansas Regional in Highfill ranks NUMBER ONE!

Silver reaches his conclusions by a complicated analysis that arrives at a figure for what an average fare should be against what's actually charged. You can read it all here. Somewhat counter-intuitively, he found that places where Southwest has a major market share tend to run higher, not lower.

Perhaps the most unfairly priced airport in America is Northwest Arkansas Regional in Fayetteville. Economy-class round trip tickets cost an average of $527 there, $158 above fair rates.

The reason, no doubt, is because the traffic there is dominated by business travelers on their way to and from the headquarters of Wal-Mart in nearby Bentonville. Although Wal-Mart is famous for its sensitivity to prices, and has saved consumers billions of dollars over the years, its pricing power evidently does not extend to the air fares its executives and clients have to cough up.

Maybe it's a Southern thing. Writes Silver:

Almost every airport in this part of the country, in fact — Little Rock, Knoxville, Huntsville, Oklahoma City — is significantly overpriced. This is also the United States’s poorest region; in their own small way, expensive airfares are probably hampering the area’s economic development.

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