Jackson-Evers on List of At-Risk Airports - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

06/26/2008

Jackson-Evers on List of At-Risk Airports

By Monica Hernandez
monica@wlbt.net

Decreased service. Increased prices. It's already happening at airports nationwide. And Jackson-Evers International is no exception.

In fact, it's on the Business Travel Coalition's list of 150 airports nationwide that are most likely to see a decrease in commercial air service due to rising fuel costs.

"Airlines, at the end of the day, are not making money," said Dirk B. Vanderleest, CEO of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority. "Any business is about profit. That's what they're trying to do, they're trying to reduce service."

Since May, three major airlines announced they would discontinue service to certain cities from the Jackson Evers International Airport. Continental ended flights from Jackson to Newark, and Delta stopped service from Jackson into Cincinatti. And on June 25th, American Eagle announced that it plans to discontinue service from Jackson to Chicago O'Hare.

And the BTC says service to and from Jackson-Evers continue to shrink. Travelers like Rob Yonan believe that could be cause for concern.

"All of that could have a big impact," said Rob Yonan, who travels into Jackson-Evers International several times a year for business. "All of us are saying, we hope it doesn't change too much, because we love coming here."

"They're charging for drinks, snacks, extra luggage," said Brock Williamson, who flies frequently. "Obviously gas prices are affecting [airlines] and they're having to cut certain things."

The BTC said airlines skyrocketing fuel prices are forcing airlines to discontinue routes that aren't high money-makers. It added that if fuel remains around $135 a barrel, airlines will be out of cash by 2009. The organization met with the House of Representatives June 26th to discuss solutions to the gas crisis.

Meanwhile, the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority said the number of travelers who come through Jackson-Evers is down compared with 2007. But, it added that the sky isn't falling.

"Our revenues are stong," said Vanderleest. "It's not chicken little right now, but it is something we're concerned about."

Even if more airlines choose to discontinue service out of Jackson, the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority said that the airport is certainly not in danger of shutting down.

Gina Aswell of the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau said the risk of decreased service at Jackson-Evers will not have a huge impact on tourism in Jackson.

"People will always travel, whether it's for business or pleasure," said Aswell. And they'll always find a way to do so."

Vanderleest warns that discontinued service isn't the only effect of rising fuel prices. He said airline ticket prices are expected to soar, and advises travelers to buy tickets well in advance.  

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