IEDC on Small Airports

Ashtabula County has an airport, which is an economic development asset that local leaders are working hard to grow. This article from IEDC is worth a read in view of our airport efforts.

In recent years, small airports have been struggling to remain relevant in the face of airline consolidation that is reducing routes and prioritizing larger hubs (New York Times). Between 2007 and 2012, airlines reduced their number of flights by 14 percent, and less competition at smaller airports is causing fares to rise. Customers are responding by driving long distances to reach larger airports that offer lower fares.

Many smaller airports hope better branding will attract additional travelers (New York Times). Sometimes this stipulates a name change that highlights a more recognizable nearby city or tourist attraction. As explained by the New York Times, “In the infancy of aviation, the fallback strategy for naming an airport was almost solely after a respected person linked with the territory…best known to local residents.” These names are often meaningless to non-locals. Hence, Gallatin Field in Montana has become Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field. But nostalgia and civic pride often stand in the way of name changes, as some residents are reluctant surrender local character to a distant, though more recognizable, landmark. Many airports are also namesakes of local benefactors, whose influential descendents look unfavorably upon a new name.

Some airports are waiving rent and landing fees to attract more carriers and to incentivize additional flights (Wall Street Journal). In 2013, Huntsville, Ala., announced a plan that would have provided performance-based incentives to airlines that added flights, lowered fares, and improved customer service.  Airlines threatened to sue, arguing that federal regulations prohibit governments from influencing prices. Industry groups also expressed apprehension that such a plan would create bidding wars among airports.

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