LITTLE ROCK, AR (abc24.com) - Memphis International has the highest average airfares in the country, according to a government report last month. Yet flights to many of the same places from the airport in Little Rock cost hundreds of dollars less.
One of the first things you notice at Little Rock National is how many of your neighbors are there from West Tennessee and North Mississippi. People like Billy Presley and daughter Madeline waited for a Southwest Airlines flight to Dallas that was too expensive from Memphis.
"Me and my daughter can fly, round trip, for about 350 bucks, both of us together, and Delta's 12-hundred bucks apiece," Presley said.
Little Rock is home to seven airlines, including Southwest and another low fare carrier, Frontier. That forces overall ticket prices down, as abc24.com discovered pricing a flight to the nation's capitol.
A Delta flight from Little Rock to Washington, D.C. will cost $314 and makes a stop in Memphis. If you want to start the very same flight in Memphis, it'll cost you $534 dollars.
Airport Director Ronald Mathieu said the cost of doing business at Little Rock is predictable.
"[Memphis] facility costs are a lot higher than ours," he said. "We're the only airport that I'm aware of, certainly small hub, especially through this recession that has not increased costs to the airlines at all in four years."
But Mathieu said the biggest price driver in Memphis is the Delta hub. He explained, "When you've got one large dominant carrier there, things tend to be a little bit different."
…And a lot more expensive when low fare carriers can't compete with the big dog at the terminal.
So why is a Delta seat from Little Rock to Washington, D.C., on a plane that stops in Memphis, less expensive than a seat on that same plane from Memphis to Washington? Because the airplane is more full out of Memphis and if you want a seat, it'll cost you.