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Weighing cost and convenience of regional travel options

By By Jamie Ostroff, Reporter
Published On: Nov 08 2012 11:15:32 PM CST

Weighing cost and convenience of regional travel options

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

"Cost or convenience?"

It's a question that's on a lot of travelers' minds as they get ready to head out of town for the holidays.

Eyewitness news has weighed the options, comparing area airports when it comes to those two things travelers value most, and the Pocatello Regional Airport seems to offer a bit of both when you're traveling for business.

If you're with a family, however, there could be an exception.

When you're looking for a getaway, you'll probably want to make sure you can afford it first.

As airfare around the nation seems to be reaching higher and higher altitudes, bang for your buck is a big deal.

Robert Foster is a perfect example of a traveler who values cost more than convenience.

He's driving from Rexburg to Las Vegas for his Hawaiian vacation in Jaunary because the round trip was cheaper.

"I can drive down to Vegas for a lot less than it is to fly out of Idaho Falls," Foster said.

Maybe we're not all up for a nine-hour roadtrip, but how about a one-hour drive?

Pocatello Airport manager David Allen said people living closer to Idaho Falls are noticing cheaper fares in the Gate City, and making the drive down more and more often.

"We have people, even from Rexburg, that are coming down because they think its worth the effort to drive that little further for the savings that they're encountering," Allen said.

Airport administrators at Pocatello do a side-by-side comparison once a month between themselves, Idaho Falls Regional and Salt Lake City International airports. They log onto Travelocity.com, choose a weekday that's usually busy for business travelers and look at the lowest ticket prices to the most common destinations.

October's comparison showed that, on average, Pocatello's fares were cheaper than fares out of Idaho Falls by an average of $105.

Pocatello was more expensive than Salt Lake City.

According to October's comparison, fares were an average of $307 cheaper out of Salt Lake, a discount which Allen reluctantly admits would be wise for a family on the move to take advantage of.

When you're traveling alone, however, he thinks it's best to hang onto your gas money.

"I could see the advantages of driving to Salt Lake, then," Allen said. "For one person, I could show how advantageous it is to fly out of Pocatello."

When it comes to ticket prices, airports have no control over that.  Rather, it's up to the airlines.

"I don't know anything about airfares and I've been studying them for a long time," Allen said.

Since two airlines compete in Pocatello, Allen says that could be what nudges those fares lower.

Idaho Falls Airport director Craig Davis says that could also be why international airports are generally less expensive than regional airports.

"More airlines and larger facilities -- they can get more low-cost air care," Davis said.

Both administrators work to save travelers money, enlisting discount carriers like Allegiant Air, or throwing in a few freebies.
   
"We control some of the value-added amenities, such as free Wi-Fi and free, complimentary coffee," Allen said.  

When it comes to factoring in other travel expenses, like gas prices, a car that gets about 20 miles per gallon at Idaho's average price of $3.71 for a gallon of regular gas, would cost $9.29 for a round-trip drive between Idaho Falls and Pocatello.

The trip between Pocatello and Salt Lake City would cost roughly $61.21.

The Salt Lake City Airport economy lot charges travelers $9 per day. At Idaho Falls Airport, it costs either $7 per day or $42 per week.  At Pocatello, parking is free.

Davis tells Eyewitness News that he can't make parking free at the Idaho Falls airport, but he does plan on looking into ways to bring prices down.

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