Friday, July 31, 2015

Pop City Posts on Lack of Flights, Cleveland & Columbus Hope For European Service, Why Can't the Greater Region Support A Major International Airport?

Another year and the same old story as individual airports around the greater region bemoan the inability to attract better national and international air service. More plans for tax subsidies to bribe carriers into providing service.

From Pop City

Want to turn Pittsburgh into a power player? Make flying to and from easier

"In 2013, Pittsburgh International had air service to just 36 destinations; many were connecting airports where passengers get on another plane to get where they really want to go. And that’s what drives Spitz Cohan crazy. She said her guests might not have the best experience when visiting Pittsburgh if they’ve missed a connection or suffer jet lag from trips prolonged by layovers."
New service is planned to Toronto but there is a decent chance it may not last.

An official for the Allegheny Conference, Ken Zapinsky answers with a sad, bunch of excuses and rationalizations.

“If there was a direct correlation between level of air service and economic success, Newark would be doing a heck of a lot better,” 
Newark International Airport is right across the Hudson from NYC, which doing pretty well.

An official from Vist Pittsburgh says"

“We compete with Louisville, Cleveland, Columbus, all of which are two stops away,” Davis said. “Of similar cities, only Charlotte and Baltimore have better air service than Pittsburgh.”
Isn't that the problem? We are competing with other similar sized regional metros instead of combining to compete against coastal mega-metros. 

Zapinsky at least admits the negative impact the lack of better service likely has.

"At issue is the potential for things to happen, according to Zapinski. Maybe a local company decides against expansion because it’s too difficult to get to the West Coast. Maybe a German company looking to grow never considers Pittsburgh because there are no direct flights. “What you can’t measure is how much better Pittsburgh would be if we had more air service,” Zapinksi said. “The real impact is in the lost opportunity for a Pittsburgh company that could have had a client fly nonstop from San Francisco or Los Angeles and cut a big deal that leads to revenue of $5 million.”
Pittsburgh isn't alone. One can find countless stories about the same need in Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.

From Cleveland.Com

Cleveland to Europe: Airport director says push is on for transatlantic flight

The hope is they can land a non-stop to London.
But it's too early to rush out and apply for a passport.
Any effort to land international service will likely take at least two years – perhaps longer – from now until takeoff.

And many important questions remain unanswered:

* What airline and what European destination?
* Will the community pony up the cash necessary to convince an airline to take a risk on Cleveland?
Others see beefing up domestic flights as a higher priority:

 Joe Roman, president of the group, (Greater Cleveland Partnership) said members are telling him their No. 1 travel-related priority remains restoring domestic service eliminated by the closure of United Airlines' Cleveland hub last year.
Cleveland Hopkins Airport director, Ricky Smith says:

Smith said he is convinced Cleveland can support a nonstop flight to Europe, despite Continental's assertion that the routes weren't profitable in 2008 and 2009.
"There was a perception that the local market couldn't support those routes," said Smith. 
"That simply wasn't true."
The flights were unsuccessful, in part, Smith believes, because the schedules were inconvenient for some business travelers and the planes were smaller and less comfortable than larger jets flying out of bigger cities.
Meaning that the current Cleveland airport market can't fill larger, more comfortable planes and frequent flights.

Of course if you bribe airlines with cash or a guarantee, you can get service

"Communities the size of Cleveland aren't getting international service without that kind of financial assistance in place," said Smith. 
It's too early to say what those economic packages might include, said Smith. "The offers would differ based upon the destination, frequency of service and even the type of aircraft," he said. Ideally, they would include a mix of private and public money. 
Thomas, with the Greater Cleveland Partnership, said he didn't know whether the business community would be willing to subsidize a flight. "We haven't asked," he said."
Same issues in Columbus.

Nonstop Port Columbus flight to London? It may happen

"Whitaker believes Columbus has a chance because “We are the fastest-growing city in the Midwest," and the support of Columbus 2020 and the business community it represents adds “a lot of value to our presentation.” 
Other cities in the mix are Indianapolis, Nashville, St. Louis and Cleveland, Whitaker said, adding, “I’d be surprised if they selected more than one.”
Indianapolis? Seriously, an airport located around Dayton would serve the total Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati urban triangle.

My comments on Pop City:

"Sad and ironic that Cleveland and Columbus have the same issue. 
Poor air service, reflects the insular mentality of regional cities, each trying to have their own "international airport".Logically Cleveland and Pittsburgh should share a major airport located around Youngstown. Likewise, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis would be better served by a major airport around Dayton." 
My following comment looking at some of the numbers.

 "A search shows that all the regional cities have marginal international and national service and almost all are subsidizing what they have. Detroit, is the only significant "Rust Belt" airport outside of Chicago. How is a huge, densely populated area not able to support more service? 
The Cleveland/Akron/Pittsburgh metros have a combined 5,863,000 residents. Adding the Youngstown/Warren/Boardman/Sharon CSA brings one close to 6.8 million people. Add Erie and it goes up again. Even if I added wrong, the numbers should be more than adequate to support much better air service.  
Columbus, Dayton and Indy's greater metros combined create an even stronger case for sharing a major airport."
 Smaller local airports can pick up some the shorter distance flights but in the long run most transit between cities under 500 miles would be best served by a strong rail system.

I may be back with follow up posts on the hope that someone is listening.

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