Air Transport World

The entrepreneurial airports: privately owned Branson Airport minds the pennies, plumbs revenue streams.(Airports)

HAT ALLEGIANT IS TO AIRLINES (ATW, 2/10, P. 60), BRANSON Airport LLC aspires to be for airports--an unbundled, unbridled generator of real, live revenue. As the LLC indicates, it is an entirely private entity, one that bills itself as "the first privately developed and operated commercial airport in the country," according to Marketing Manager Deidre McCormick.

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Private is the pervasive word at this $160 million, one-runway enclave carved from an octet of Ozark hills. "Everything you see here is privately owned," says Executive Director Jeff Bourk. "No federal money." And that means--aside from air traffic control and TSA--no federal strings. The absence of federal (or for that matter many local) controls allows Branson Airport a kind of latitude that is at the same instant charged with potential and populated by challenges. The path to potential payoff is, at this stage of the gambit anyway, paved with IDR--Initial Development Rights. Because BKG doesn't take federal money, it determines who has temporarily exclusive rights to fly to the airport. The same applies to car rental agencies, eateries and shops.

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Three carriers currently serve BKG: AirTran--which has agreed to be acquired by Southwest Airlines--Frontier Airlines and Branson AirExpress. Initially (Bourk won't say for how long) AirTran has exclusive rights to Atlanta and Orlando, Frontier to Denver and Milwaukee. …

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