Hilton Head chamber to lobby Delta for cheaper airfare

gmartin@islandpacket.comMarch 26, 2012 

In 2009, the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce successfully lobbied Delta to lower the price for flights to and from the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport.

Chamber representatives will make the same request this week at a meeting with Delta officials, hoping for the same result.

The chamber isn't making the request on its own; it has partnered with the airport and the Savannah Chamber and Visitor's Bureau, as it did before.

"We believe that it's critical as a resort destination to help people get here," said chamber president Bill Miles.

He said the airline's prices have risen slowly but steadily since they were slashed after the 2009 meeting and that he's not the only one keeping an eye on the rates.

"A lot of times people organizing conventions make their decision about where to meet by looking at airline prices," Miles said. "They're something that's very important to this area."

Delta offers more flights from Savannah than the four airlines serving that airport, including 12 daily departures to Atlanta.

Miles, along with airport executive director Patrick S. Graham and Savannah chamber president Bill Hubbard, recently sent a letter to Delta voicing concerns about "the growing disparity between Delta fares and rates for neighboring airports."

Miles said he's "cautiously optimistic" about his group's chances of persuading the airline to lower its prices, adding, "Delta's been very reasonable with us in the past."

As a result of the 2009 meeting, Delta reduced prices at the Savannah airport by $50 to $60 per flight, according to Hubbard.

According to an early 2010 release from airport spokeswoman Lori Lynah, tickets to Atlanta bought 10 to 14 days in advance cost $258.

They now cost $301, according to the airline's website.

"It worked the first time for a while," Hubbard said. "But now we're back to getting calls from people complaining about the prices again."

After that initial correspondence, Hubbard said, Delta officials were open to lowering fares if the civic leaders would raise awareness in their communities of the reduced rates.

"We shared with (Delta) our belief that they would get more volume if they lowered their rates," Hubbard said. "It was in all of our best interests."

Attempts Monday to contact the airline were unsuccessful.

Hubbard said he and Miles will likely defer to Graham, the airport director, in the upcoming meeting.

"We'll listen to him on strategy," he said. "We all have similar concerns, but he's the expert."

Graham declined to comment on his approach to the upcoming meeting.

Hubbard added that the chambers' collaboration on the issue is emblematic of the ties between their respective communities.

"We're all in this together," he said. "A lot of people think how the (Savannah) river separates us, but we need to think about how it joins us."

The meeting will mark another chapter in Hilton Head's relationship with Delta.

In 2010, the airline stopped serving the Hilton Head Island Airport, citing poor utilization of its route, after suspending its service temporarily in 2008 and 2009.

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

Related content

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service