Air Expert: High Huntsville Airfares Are “The New Normal”

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- With rising concerns over high airfares and less capacity, Huntsville International Airport brought transportation industry expert Bill Swelbar from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in to answer questions about the industry.

He shed new light on airline ticket costs, connectivity to key markets, and industry impacts on small-to-medium airports like Huntsville.

"Huntsville does have high fares, but I disagree with the government study that says they are the highest in the country," Swelbar says. "I would argue Huntsville is experiencing what every other medium-sized regional airport in the country is; a rude awakening prices are not going to come down," he added.

Swelbar touched on the overall changes of aviation and covered topics like the high cost of fuel, the shortage in regional pilots, capacity discipline, the trend for moving away from regional jets so often used in smaller communities, and the lack of competition in the industry due to airline mergers.


Swelbar addressed community members at a town hall-style public meeting Tuesday held at  the UAH College of Business Administration Chan Auditorium.

According to a news release about this meeting, Swelbar recently authored a study analyzing average fares at more than 450 U.S. airports, including Huntsville International Airport (HSV).

Swelbar told WHNT News 19 his MIT study was independent and not funded by anyone airport or airline.

"It is safe to say that the U.S. airline industry has forever changed. This new normal has resulted in communities of all sizes losing air service and we're seeing increased prices across the board," said Swelbar. "Huntsville is quite a unique community when you look at its air service, and I think many will be surprised to see how Huntsville stacks up."

He co-authored "Evolving Trends of the U.S. Domestic Airfares: The Impacts of Competition, Consolidation, and Low-cost carriers" along with Michael Wittman.

This is the third white paper at MIT on small community air service. All three studies can be found on the airport's website.

This week the port authority released their annual report. To Read the entire report: CLICK HERE