Air Transport World

Priming the pump: airports and communities are offering incentives to bring more business to town and more flights to the airport.(Airports)

The Great Falls, Mont., Development Authority is touting its airport's intercontinental-length runway, foreign trade zone and low operating costs as enticements for businesses to locate there. Several companies are interested.

The state of Kentucky offered proposed startup Republic Airlines a $7 million incentive package to choose Louisville International Airport as its hub and headquarters. The new Regional is scheduled to start moving in next month.

The San Jose, Costa Pica, airport and the nation's Institute for Tourism teamed up on a plan to attract more service from US hubs. At least four new flights are expected this winter.

Increasingly, communities and airports are working together with the knowledge that new service at the airport and new business for the community go hand-in-hand.

Airports courting airline service are nothing new. In the 1970s, Oakland and Baltimore sent teams around the country to pitch airline managements to add flights to their airports, and even visited reservations centers to charm agents into steering customers to their facilities. A subset of consultants sprang up to sell air service development work to airports too small to field their own crews. And of course for decades the federal government subsidized flights to small communities through the Essential Air Service program.

The Maryland Dept. of Transportation's ability to build new gates quickly at Baltimore/Washington International was a key factor in BWI's winning the fierce competition to become Southwest Airlines' first East Coast station in 1993. The airport now is Southwest's third-busiest station.

Even with an 11.5% increase to 13.4 million passengers last year, the Port of Oakland still is working hard to attract more business to its airport. Traffic was up about 16% in the first half of 2003, Director of Aviation Steven J. Grossman says. International growth has been especially significant, with a total of 30 weekly flights this year compared with 14 a year ago.

New daily flights include two more Aloha Airlines trips to Hawaii, new service to Mexico, Costa Rica and the Azores, and nine more flights by JetBlue for a total of 15. …

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