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Airport news keeps getting better Air fare turnaround is a regional win discount airlines continue building

Buffalo Niagara International Airport, with low-cost carriers Southwest, JetBlue and AirTran, flew from one of the costliest for fares to one much cheaper. Good news continues.

JetBlue recently announced that it will begin direct service to Boston's Logan International Airport June 30. It is notable that this is the first time passengers can fly direct from a JetBlue Airlines gate in Buffalo to a destination other than New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

And there's more. Delta Air Lines announced it will initiate travel between Buffalo and JFK with four new flights starting June 8. JetBlue added an eighth daily Buffalo-JFK flight this month. In February, Southwest announced a third non-stop flight to Chicago and another direct flight to Orlando.

The airport represents one of this region's successes. As a result of low-fare carriers, Buffalo has gone from second-highest average air fares among the top 78 airports in the country in 1997 to 21st lowest at last count.

The airport terminal has truly come a long way since being built in 1997. It began as one with the most expensive fares in the country, with fewer than 3 million passengers a year. In less than 10 years, the air fares here became dramatically less expensive and the airport will handle more than 5 million passengers this year. All of this is being accomplished with a stagnant population in a stagnant economy.

The airport works, in part, by attracting passengers from neighboring states and Ontario. But the key was the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, backed by a unified business community, attracting low-fare airlines so the major airlines had to lower their rates to compete. In an industry rocked by 9/1 1 and further hindered last year by high fuel costs, even JetBlue and Southwest are having some difficulties. They may not be in bankrupt Delta's class -- losing $1.5 billion since October -- but they continue to expand their service from Buffalo, to the benefit of this region's travelers.

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