LCCs Fuel Expansion Of Smaller Fields
As congested as major US
metropolitan airports have becomes, it could have been much worse.
A USA Today analysis of federal data shows the fastest growing
airport traffic in the country is not happening at JFK or LAX, but
at midsized airports an hour or more outside major cities.
Airport consultant Mike Boyd told the paper volume at these
airports has jumped by up to 400% in the past decade, driven by
discount airlines moving to cheaper secondary airports, and
population growth in regions located about an hour from New York,
Los Angeles, Boston and Washington.
The trend has helped alleviate strain on major metro airports,
but has also stimulated development around the smaller, more
Southwest Airlines had a major impact on Long Island MacArthur
Airport, about 75 minutes from Manhattan, after arriving there in
1999. Phil Nolan, supervisor of the town of Islip, says the number
of departing passengers grew from 240,000 in 1998 to 1.2 million
last year, and more than 100 commercial buildings sprouted
In Manchester, NH -- about 55 miles from Boston -- low rents and
landing fees were used as incentives to attract Southwest. Airport
deputy director Brian O'Neill says Southwest's 1999 arrival there
brought not only tens of thousands of new travelers, but new
service from competing airlines.
So, how does the trend play with suburban NIMBYs, who often tell
local planners they view development and growth just as dimly as
they do airport noise?
The politics vary from place to place, but hard work and
creativity can win out. In California, Long Beach Airport sits in
the center of the fifth-largest city in the state, yet had flights
only to Phoenix and Dallas/Fort Worth in the 1990s. Today, JetBlue
has expanded that menu to 15 cities, requiring good public
relations skills by airport management.
Airport spokeswoman Sharon Diggs-Jackson says, "...there were
some community concerns about our rapid growth. We had to do a lot
of outreach," and work within a limit of 66 flights a day set by a
Despite the NIMBY battles which seem to dominate the headlines,
aviation consultant Patrick Murphy told USA Today that in most
suburbs where airports are expanding, "...the local citizenry is
delighted with the air service they can obtain."