Airport Alert: Huntsville Tops Most Expensive List Again

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-New numbers, same old story. Huntsville International Airport is once again America's most expensive place to fly out of.

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows Huntsville has retained its most expensive crown, with an average round-trip ticket from the Rocket City now running at a whopping $544. The DOT's numbers were taken from the fourth quarter of 2012, the most recent reporting period. It's the second straight quarter that Huntsville International Airport has topped the list. The airport's previous ticket average was $522.

The new report also shows that Huntsville's ticket prices saw the second highest year-to-year average increase, with prices from the fourth quarter of 2012 rising nearly thirteen percent from the same time frame one year earlier. Airport officials continue to blame sequestration and a disproportionate amount of government travelers for the steep prices. Some city leaders admit that the sky-high air fares are putting a strain on the city's goal of luring more conventions and business opportunities to town.

"Obviously, we're concerned about it, it effects the whole community," said Huntsville City Council President Mark Russell. "We as city leaders, business leaders and the tourism industry, we have to get together and put our best foot forward to solve's taking too much money out of our community."

Huntsville-Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau President Judy Ryals told WHNT News 19 that her office is working on addressing the high air fares with other agencies. Ryals said the fares do not pose a major threat to convention and business recruitment.

"Unfortunately, that is one top list that we do not want to be a part of," said Ryals. "Our Chamber of Commerce is taking on this issue, bringing a lot of community leaders together for us to discuss ways that we might be able to go after some additional carriers and get those fares lowered."

Airport officials told WHNT News 19 that they're concerned about the high fares, but said their strategy of fighting the prices by encouraging customers to book as early as possible remains the same.

"We're facing a lot of challenges right now," said airport spokeswoman Chantel Minish. "We lost AirTran, which was our low-cost carrier. Our community is being impacted by sequestration, and there's just a lot of factors out there right now that are impacting the fares...the message still remains the same. They [passengers] need to book as early as possible."

Airport officials also said they have not ruled out making another attempt to lure Southwest Airlines to town. Southwest rejected Huntsville as an operation site shortly after the low-cost airline acquired AirTran.