More Records Broken at Eastern Iowa Airport

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The number of people flying out of the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids keeps setting new records. Part of that is because airlines are using larger planes, offering more seats. It means a savings for airlines, but one expert says don't expect ticket prices to go down.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says the average domestic airfare out of the Eastern Iowa Airport is $445. That's more expensive than Quad Cities at $400 and Des Moines at $380.

An airline consultant says prices at Eastern Iowa are as low as they can be for the area. For passengers, the bigger planes are really about comfort over convenience.

Debra Hampton just flew in to Cedar Rapids to visit her grandkids. She said flying comfortably is always a concern.

"A bigger plane is always more comfortable. The convenience of having a lot of flights is nice but I think I'd much rather be comfortable. Some of the smaller planes you can't carry your luggage on, it's just frustrating," said Hampton.

Airline consultant Michael Boyd said that's the idea airlines have behind flying bigger planes. It has other benefits, like savings for airlines on operating costs. But he says that won't help lower ticket prices in Cedar Rapids. Other factors influence that.

"They have Frontier here, they have very cheap flights. They have Allegiant, they have very low fares. But if you want to get to Tuscon Arizona, you want to get to Fresno, certainly they're not going to be dirt cheap," said Boyd Group International President Michael Boyd.

It also won't mean fewer fees for things like luggage or carry-ons. Boyd says the ticket really is only the entry cost to flying.

"Remember, today, an airfare is just a down payment to get to New York City but that's all around the country," said Boyd. "Remember, this airport isn't necessarily here for you and I to leave town, it's to get people into town."

The push to bigger planes has helped Eastern Iowa set a record for number of passengers last year, along with more destinations.But bigger planes have a draw back, fewer flight times. Luke Crow, who's flying to Brazil today, said he'd rather have more options for less risk of being stuck.

"There's three flights to where we're going out to today but if there was only one flight going out today that would be even harder to figure stuff out so I feel like less flights," said Crow. "I'm not sure if that's a good enough price for more comfortable travel. I'm not sure."

The airport said they see themselves as an economic driver for the area, contributing about 224-million dollars to the local economy.