Tag Archives: Toledo Express Airport

Best of Aviation Queen: If You Build It, They Might Not Come

Having covered the airports beat for four years, I found them to be fascinating.  They are like small cities (or large, depending on where they are).  They are a symbol of a community’s ties to the global transportation system.  They are seen as economic development engines and even points of pride.

So it was with great interest that I read Susan Carey’s Wall Street Journal article, “Small Airports Struggle to Get Off Ground.”  I worked a great deal with smaller airports during my tenure at Mesa Air Group, chasing after Essential Air Service program markets.  I also covered them as editor of Commuter/Regional Airline News.

Smaller airports were always looking for that magic formula to bring in that all-important air service.  One of those formulas was always something like “if we build a bigger terminal” or “it we lengthen the runway” we can get more airline service.

But the hard truth that many of these airports don’t want to face is that no matter what you do, you’re not going to get the service you believe you deserve.  Airlines are a lot more picky about where they fly, and even if you get them, it doesn’t mean they’ll stay.

It was always interesting to meet with city officials when you were going after their EAS business.  They would make these outrageous service demands, knowing full well they could barely justify the service they had only because of the largess of the federal government.

I love Carey’s example of San Bernardino, Calif.  At the beginning of my journalism career, I wrote about economic development.  At the time,  Congress had decided to close a slew of military bases, many of which had airports, San Bernardino being one of them.  So almost 20 years after Norton AFB closed, they have still not managed to attract an airline, despite having spent $142.7 million since 2007 on a passenger terminal, a  general aviation terminal and a building for U.S. Customs. One issue is there’s too many other alternative airports — including Los Angeles International — in the region.  Ontario Airport has that same issue.

Another example is Ohio’s Toledo Express Airport.  I’m sure it’s a lovely airport, but most of its potential customers drive to Detroit Metro for the selection that a hub airport gives you.  Even Toledo’s mayor — theoretically the facility’s biggest booster — was caught driving to Detroit.

And yet another example is Pennsylvania’s John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, about 2 hours away from Pittsburgh.  The late Rep. Murtha guided $150 million in federal dollars for a facility that has been empty at times, although it currently has United Express service to Washington Dulles International Airport.  So it will be interesting to see what stops smaller airports will pull out in the future to attract that new service.

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of … Air Service?

Back on May 2, in my Rolling Aviation Thoughts post, one of the items was about how Toledo Express Airport is still looking for an airline to provide service.  The airport received a $750,000 Small Community Air Service grant seven months ago with the goal of bringing in a carrier, with no luck.  The problem is the city’s close proximity to Detroit Metro Airport, where folks can — and do — just drive from Toledo for lower fares.

In that article, air service consultant Mike Boyd was quoted saying that “it’s time for air-service hospice” at Express.  And I agreed with him 100%.  But in a letter to the editor of the Toledo Blade, Jerry Chabler, Chairman Airport Committee Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, took exception with Boyd’s blunt assessment about air service out of the airport.

“That kind of talk is reckless. Read by representatives of airlines with whom we are in talks, or by passengers flying into and out of Express, those words will not be helpful.” Chabler wrote.  He also took exception with Boyd’s comment that “the local airport is a lost cause.”

I can understand how Mr. Chabler feels.  It’s his job to try to get air service into Toledo Express.  But I also don’t think he’s being realistic about that facility’s chances of getting air service anytime soon. Even Toledo’s mayor — theoretically the facility’s biggest booster — was caught driving to Detroit.

Chabler needs to take a look at his airport’s own numbers.  The airport reached its peak traffic in 1997, when AirTran was offering direct service to Orlando.

Since then, it’s been a revolving door of airlines at Toledo Express, including Delta Connection, Continental Express, American Eagle, Northwest Airlink and Direct Air, which abruptly ended service in March.  Airlines have been cutting service to marginal and low-performing markets since 2001, and they have become very picky about where they put their resources.

The fact that despite receiving $1.3 million in federal Small Community Air Service grants in the past five years (giving back $750,000), the airport still can’t attract an airline.

When I worked at Mesa air back in 2001-2002, one of my jobs was to do presentations to communities for their Essential Air Service contracts (read about my thoughts on that program here). It was always interesting to meet with city officials, because they would make these outrageous service demands, knowing full well they could barely justify the service they had only because of the largess of the federal government.  They felt like it was their right to have air service in a post-deregulation world.

And Mr. Chabler seems to feel the same way about Toledo Express despite the reality of a new airline world order where smaller cities will continue to fight just to keep what little service they still have.  Travelers in the region have voted — they prefer to drive to Detroit and make their own connections to the global air transportation system.

Another letter to the editor applauded Boyd’s frank assessment and suggested that the Port Authority focus on providing a shuttle service to Detroit instead of chasing after airlines.  I agree, and a good model of how well it works is operating in my own back yard.

I was talking with John Presburg, an old friend from my regional airline days. He retired from US Airways Express carrier Piedmont Airlines and created a BayRunner Shuttle, a van service to Washington National, Washington Dulles and BWI Airport from Maryland cities, including several that no longer have air service.  I hope Toledo Express looks at doing something similar instead of chasing after something that will probably not be coming back.

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

  • I am a big fan of art in airports.  I feel like it breaks up the monotony of the walls, plus I get to experience art I might not see in my everyday life.  So I was delighted to read this great story in USA Today Travel from my airport soul sister Harriet Baskas on the re-dedication of a multi-panel mural at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport saluting African-American achievements in aviation.
  • The New York Times Practical Traveler column recently covered ways that travelers can speed through security lines.  While the article did outline the options (Global Entry and Pre-Check) it made it so very clear how limited the options really are. Global Traveler is for those who travel overseas, while Pre-Check is only for frequent travelers flying on American and Delta. I sure wish there were more options for those of us who don’t fit into the above categories.
  • The Toledo Blade recently had an article about how Toledo Express Airport still hasn’t been able to attract commercial airline service seven months after receiving a $750,000 Small Community Air Service grant designed to bring in a carrier.  This is not a new problem for the airport, which  is about an hour’s drive away from Detroit Metro Airport.  And there’s the problem. You have a major hub airport that offers service around the glob, plus a healthy amount of flights from Southwest Airlines.  And flying out of Toledo to connect through another airport tends to cost more. The airport received a $400,000 grant back in 2006, but had to return the money after having no luck attracting an airport even then. The lesson? Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.
  • Peter Shankman, founder of the Help A Reporter Out website and frequent traveler, recently did a Twitter Q&A on flights from Hong Kong to New York and Newark to Los Angeles International Airport.  Some of the questions — what is the meaning of life — are a little offbeat, but there are plenty of other travel-related questions that are worth a read.
  • Last week, a former flight student tried to steal a Cessna 152 from Compton Airport, reports the Los Angeles Times.  I found several things interesting about this. One, who knew there was an airport in Compton and that it’s been around since 1924? Two, please feel free to insert your favorite NWA jokes here.  And three, click here to read a conversation I had with my flight instructor about this story, on the AOPA Pilot blog.

Rolling Aviation Thoughts

  • I am a big fan of art in airports.  I feel like it breaks up the monotony of the walls, plus I get to experience art I might not see in my everyday life.  So I was delighted to read this great story in USA Today Travel from my airport soul sister Harriet Baskas on the re-dedication of a multi-panel mural at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport saluting African-American achievements in aviation.
  • The New York Times Practical Traveler column recently covered ways that travelers can speed through security lines.  While the article did outline the options (Global Entry and Pre-Check) it made it so very clear how limited the options really are. Global Traveler is for those who travel overseas, while Pre-Check is only for frequent travelers flying on American and Delta. I sure wish there were more options for those of us who don’t fit into the above categories.
  • The Toledo Blade recently had an article about how Toledo Express Airport still hasn’t been able to attract commercial airline service seven months after receiving a $750,000 Small Community Air Service grant designed to bring in a carrier.  This is not a new problem for the airport, which  is about an hour’s drive away from Detroit Metro Airport.  And there’s the problem. You have a major hub airport that offers service around the glob, plus a healthy amount of flights from Southwest Airlines.  And flying out of Toledo to connect through another airport tends to cost more. The airport received a $400,000 grant back in 2006, but had to return the money after having no luck attracting an airport even then. The lesson? Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.
  • Peter Shankman, founder of the Help A Reporter Out website and frequent traveler, recently did a Twitter Q&A on flights from Hong Kong to New York and Newark to Los Angeles International Airport.  Some of the questions — what is the meaning of life — are a little offbeat, but there are plenty of other travel-related questions that are worth a read.
  • Last week, a former flight student tried to steal a Cessna 152 from Compton Airport, reports the Los Angeles Times.  I found several things interesting about this. One, who knew there was an airport in Compton and that it’s been around since 1924? Two, please feel free to insert your favorite NWA jokes here.  And three, click here to read a conversation I had with my flight instructor about this story, on the AOPA Pilot blog.

If You Build It, They Might Not Come

Having covered the airports beat for four years, I found them to be fascinating.  They are like small cities (or large, depending on where they are).  They are a symbol of a community’s ties to the global transportation system.  They are seen as economic development engines and even points of pride.

Sioux Gateway Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson

So it was with great interest that I read Susan Carey’s Wall Street Journal article, “Small Airports Struggle to Get Off Ground.”  I worked a great deal with smaller airports during my tenure at Mesa Air Group, chasing after Essential Air Service program markets.  I also covered them as editor of Commuter/Regional Airline News.

Smaller airports were always looking for that magic formula to bring in that all-important air service.  One of those formulas was always something like “if we build a bigger terminal” or “it we lengthen the runway” we can get more airline service.

But the hard truth that many of these airports don’t want to face is that no matter what you do, you’re not going to get the service you believe you deserve.  Airlines are a lot more picky about where they fly, and even if you get them, it doesn’t mean they’ll stay.

It was always interesting to meet with city officials when you were going after their EAS business.  They would make these outrageous service demands, knowing full well they could barely justify the service they had only because of the largess of the federal government.

I love Carey’s example of San Bernardino, Calif.  At the beginning of my journalism career, I wrote about economic development.  At the time,  Congress had decided to close a slew of military bases, many of which had airports, San Bernardino being one of them.  So almost 20 years after Norton AFB closed, they have still not managed to attract an airline, despite having spent $142.7 million since 2007 on a passenger terminal, a  general aviation terminal and a building for U.S. Customs. One issue is there’s too many other alternative airports — including Los Angeles International — in the region.  Ontario Airport has that same issue.

Another example is Ohio’s Toledo Express Airport.  I’m sure it’s a lovely airport, but most of its potential customers drive to Detroit Metro for the selection that a hub airport gives you.  Even Toledo’s mayor — theoretically the facility’s biggest booster — was caught driving to Detroit.

And yet another example is Pennsylvania’s John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, about 2 hours away from Pittsburgh.  The late Rep. Murtha guided $150 million in federal dollars for a facility that has been empty at times, although it currently has United Express service to Washington Dulles International Airport.  So it will be interesting to see what stops smaller airports will pull out in the future to attract that new service.