PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland International Jetport’s top administrator on Monday touted the facility’s recent ranking as one of the country’s most affordable airports.
According to the website cheapflights.com, the Portland International Jetport is the 13th most affordable of the 400-plus commercial airports in the country, three spots ahead of its northern New England competitor in Manchester, New Hampshire, and even ahead of the No. 76 ranked Logan International Airport in Boston.
“The perception is that we’re convenient, but we’re not the most affordable,” said Paul Bradbury, director of the Portland jetport. “The truth is we’re both.”
The website’s Fifth Annual Airport Affordability Index report named the top 101 commercial airports in the nation in terms of average airfare. Portland, with an average airfare of $308, jumped up 10 spots compared with last year’s report.
The No. 1 airport in terms of affordability, Charleston International Jetport in South Carolina, offered average airfares of $191, followed by Daugherty Field in Long Beach, California, which boasted airfares of $200.
Manchester’s average airfares were listed at $313, while Logan’s were stacked up at $430. Bangor International Airport was not ranked in the top 101.
Portland’s average airfare has dropped from $394 in 2011, but Bradbury noted that the ticket prices have had an even more precipitous fall going back 20 years. He said airfare out of Portland in 1995, adjusted to today’s dollars, averaged greater than $600.
“It shows how far we’ve come since 1995,” Bradbury said. “We have a fleet mix that has really brought down the price.”
The Portland jetport director said the arrival of now-defunct Independence Air in 2005 helped establish Maine’s largest city as a viable location for other low-cost carriers, such as the soon-to-follow AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines.
Bradbury said the jetport’s gamble of launching a $75 million, 145,000-square-foot terminal expansion during the economic recession paid off, as it was able to take advantage of low contractor prices and finish off an environmentally friendly, state-of-the-art facility that could attract airlines.
“If we didn’t have the new terminal and the facilities to handle them, I’m not sure [Southwest] would have chosen to stay with Portland,” he said.
The affordability ranking is the latest bit of good news for the jetport, which earlier this year trumpeted its first increase in passenger numbers in four years, with nearly 1.68 million people going through the Portland turnstiles in 2013.
Bradbury said that figure is less than 4 percent below the jetport’s all-time high of more than 1.76 million passengers in 2008, just before the recession.
The Portland City Council on Monday night voted to establish a 24-member Sustainable Airport Master Plan Advisory Committee to begin the regular 12-16-month process of developing a plan for the jetport’s next 10 years. The panel will include representatives from area cities, tourism officials, and representatives of airlines and pilots organizations, among others.
That committee will update the airport’s 2008 master plan, utilizing additional Federal Aviation Administration grant money to further study ways to make the airport more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
In 2012, the Portland jetport become just the second commercial airport in the country to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold certification.