Another airline, cheaper flights; At Raleigh-Durham, some fares plunged after Southwest arrived; Air travel


Competition does matter.

Beginning next month, government workers will pay $30 to fly from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to Baltimore.

That's down from the current one-way fare of $199.

The change reflects newly negotiated airfares for government workers, announced by the U.S. General Services Administration, the agency that provides services to federal workers.

Some other fares have dropped sharply since Southwest Airlines began serving Raleigh-Durham International in North Carolina in June.

The $30 one-way fare to Baltimore, in effect from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, was negotiated with Southwest. The previous fiscal year's $199 fare was negotiated with US Airways.

The GSA negotiates rates for government workers flying on official business. The agency says it saved taxpayers an estimated $2 billion next year, with rates negotiated for more than 4,000 routes.

The negotiated fares, which are unrestricted, cost about 70 percent less than comparable fares for the public, the agency said.

A few other fares from Raleigh-Durham International also have dropped dramatically. The government fare to Providence, R.I., for instance, fell to $59 from $197.

Mike Blanton, spokesman for Raleigh/Durham International, said the negotiated fares will benefit several thousand employees of the Environmental Protection Agency who work in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

But Blanton added that it's not just government workers who are benefiting since Southwest began service in June. "We've seen fare cuts across the board this summer," he said. "Southwest hasn't really taken passengers away from the 13 other major airlines that fly here.

"Instead, what we've seen is that people are driving to the airport from farther away."

Southwest flies from Raleigh/Durham International to Baltimore; Chicago Midway; Nashville, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; and Tampa, Fla. It offers connections to other cities.

US Airways declined to comment on the new fares.

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