October 8 2008 by Chris McGinnis
While I've established my credentials as a road warrior (see previous post), you should know that I fly as much as I drive. And like every business traveler out there who has heard that U.S. airlines are cutting schedules, parking planes and raising fares, I'm concerned about the impact on my travel budget.
But beyond the screechy headlines predicting unbearably high fares and the end of air travel as we know it, I've determined not all that much is going to change for most business travelers.
Like most Americans, I'm lucky because nearly all my air travel is on high volume routes between major cities with plenty of low-fare competition. In markets like these, average fares have increased only about 10 percent over the last year. I'm even luckier that I live in a city that's a hub for a low-fare carrier (Virgin America) and has two airports served by low-fare leader Southwest Airlines (San Francisco and Oakland). Fares to and from the cities I fly to most (Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver and Las Vegas) have actually decreased year-over-year.
But if your business travel takes you to or from small towns served by one or two carriers, you can expect to see significant airfare increases, fewer flights, or even loss of commercial airline service. But still, there's no need to panic. Nearly every small town in America is within a few hours drive of a major airport with low fare service. Avoid the outrageously high fares into some of these markets by simply flying into the nearest major airport, renting a car, and then driving to your destination. (Last week American Express predicted that car rental rates would "remain competitive" over the next year.)
The Air Transport Association (ATA) says that nearly 100 small towns stand to lose all commercial flights in coming months.