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      Why are Sawyer airfares higher than other local airports?

      Yesterday, Upper Michigan's Source took a closer look at why Sawyer International Airport is experiencing a decrease in ridership.

      In addition to less flights, Sawyer passengers are noticing fares that are often higher than other local airports. Of course, that's having an impact on the airport and its customers.

      It is getting more expensive for Scott Krah's annual family trip from Sawyer to Orlando, Florida.

      "It's probably gone up over $150 over the past couple years," said the Marquette resident.

      That jump is also hitting Judy Klaus in her wallet. The self-employed consultant flies from Sawyer 24 times a year.

      "I went from ticket prices to fly to New York ranging about four or five hundred dollars," said the L'Anse resident. "I know the past few months I've paid six, seven hundred dollars. That's tough. That's just taking it out of what little bit of profit I do have."

      Fares are up across the country, but Krah said he often finds fares lower than Sawyer's at nearby airports.

      "It's a lot cheaper if you go outside Marquette, usually," he said. "You have to calculate in the amount of the gas, the extra time driving, the time you have to drive when you come back, but generally it's a lot cheaper if you go down to Appleton, slightly cheaper usually out of Iron Mountain or Escanaba."

      The difference is partially due to the fact that every other airport in the Upper Peninsula receives funding through the federal government's Essential Air Service program. Sawyer does not because it has more than one airline, and the federal government will no longer subsidize any new airports. The federal dollars that other airports receive allow them to have slightly cheaper fares, keeping their local customers close.

      There is another reason for high fares, according to AAA travel agent Marcia Dionne.

      "The availability out of Marquette probably impacts the price more than anything," said Dionne.

      Dionne said the difference in base fares between Marquette and other regional airports isn't significant unless the flights are nearly or completely sold out, which happens often.

      Delta Airlines said fuel prices are the wild card in fares, often controlling prices more than demand and profitability. They added that, "small markets are particularly vulnerable because of the aircraft types operating in their market."

      How do you find inexpensive fares at small airports? Dionne said if you book well in advance and have flexible dates, you will likely find that flying from your local airport is feasible.

      The president of the Regional Airline Association, Roger Cohen, said flying is still a reasonable expense despite recent increases.

      "Airfares, historically, compared to inflation, are still a tremendous bargain," said Cohen.

      Cohen also noted that having a strong local airport is key to attracting new businesses.

      "That's why it's critical, critical for everybody in your community, to fly more often out of their local airport," he said.

      No matter the price, business travelers, like Klaus, keep flying. "It is what it is, you know?"

      Dionne noted that the fall season is one of the cheapest times to fly during the year, but prices will quickly climb as flights fill up as the holiday season gets closer.