South Bend Regional Airport officials don't want you to stay home, but they do want you to find a means of travel that’s close to home.
For five straight months the airport has reported an increase in travelers. Part of that may be an improving economy, but the other part may be more competitive prices.
"Because South Bend Regional is trying to get more lift out of South Bend, and to bring more passengers out of South Bend," said Sandra Dobrucki of TCU travel, "so they are trying to be more competitive on pricing".
Dobrucki says she started to notice better prices in the fall.
One key factor may be low-cost carrier Allegiant Air, a relatively new presence in South Bend. Allegiant now offers direct flights to Las Vegas, Orlando, the Tampa Bay area and Arizona. In 2006 Allegiant flew 74,000 customers in and out of South Bend. During 2010 that number soared to 129,000. Low-cost carriers often force other airlines to be more conscious of prices so they don't lose customers.
Chicago is the key competition for South Bend Regional. Edwardsburg, Michigan traveler Ron Dickeson would prefer to fly from South Bend, but often goes to Chicago.
"I started going to Chicago, and I started to fly out of Midway, because the rates are a lot cheaper," Dickeson said.
But there is evidence that's changing. WSBT checked prices through Priceline. A March trip from South Bend to Miami came in just $39 more than a Chicago to Miami flight. An April trip to New York was just $36 more.
"Even if it's within $40, it's still better to stay and go out of South Bend," said travel agent Sandra Dobrucki. That's because the cost of gas for the drive to Chicago, and the parking, is expensive.
But keep in mind these South Bend flights are not direct, you have to switch planes. The Chicago flights are direct.
And not all flights are competitive. Always shop around. Right now, South Bend Regional lacks flights out west, except for Allegiant to Arizona. Adding service to, for example, Dallas might lower prices for trips to California and beyond.
"We are working with carriers,” said Elizabeth Cecconi, South Bend Regional's director of marketing. “Probably a couple times a month we are on the phone with carriers talking about what the next best alternative would be. Hub connectivity to a westbound destination would be a great asset to our community."
Cecconi says the airport is also interested in adding another low-cost carrier.