A committee that's trying to reinvigorate the Colorado Springs Airport is on the right track, based on a Sept. 3 story in the New York Times about another medium-sized airport in shadows of a giant.
The Times business section told of challenges at Ontario International Airport, in Ontario, Calif., which has to compete for airlines and passengers with nearby Los Angeles International Airport - the third busiest airport in the country. The Ontario airport's traffic has dropped by 40 percent since its 2007 Peak, leaving traffic at levels of the mid-1980s.
"Ontario's experience mirrors that of other smaller airports in large markets," the story explains.
The Colorado Springs Airport is a smaller airport in a large market because travelers are only an hour from the fifth busiest airport in the United States and the 10th busiest in the world. Like Colorado Springs, Ontario expanded it's airport in anticipation of growth that did not occur.
A committee of some of our community's top achievers, headed by El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl, has convened to figure out what airlines and passengers want when choosing an airport. They quickly came forward with recommendations to lower costs for airlines, which can then offer more competitive fares for passengers. One proposal for lowering fees to airlines involves renovating a mothballed passenger concourse that served in the 1990s as a hub for now-defunct Western Pacific Airlines. The concourse would be leased to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, or another appropriate tenant, generating revenue that would ease the need for high fees to airlines.
Another recommendation of the committee involves building a business center and lounge for business travelers and frequent fliers. The business center and lounge would help airlines attract more frequent fliers who travel for business. Other attractions would include valet parking and express security for travelers with premium tickets. The addition of more first-class and business-class travelers helps keep prices low for everyone else. The Times article serves as reassurance the airport committee is on the right track. It quotes Brad Hawkins, a Southwest Airlines spokesman, explaining what drives his company's decisions as to which airports to use.
Cost, Hawkins said, "is by far the most important determinant in how we operate." The story explained that high airport fees typically push airlines to airports with lower costs.
"Airlines can never operate at a profit if they rely on consumer business. They need business passengers," the story said.
Everyone in Colorado Springs needs the airport to flourish - even those who don't travel. More flights in and out of the Springs means more tourists coming here to spend money at local businesses and to pay taxes that fund local projects, parks and routine maintenance.
More flights in and out of Colorado Springs makes our community more accommodating of high-end employers who may be looking to relocate. Progress for our city will come more quickly and easily if the airport offers frequent flights to more cities.
We urge the Colorado Springs City Council, Mayor Steve Bach, county politicians, state politicians and business leaders to stay on track and make the Colorado Springs Airport the easiest and least expensive of its size in the country for airlines and passengers alike. We thank the committee for forging ahead and taking on what some consider an impossible task. You are clearly on the right track. Just keep going and the airport may thrive.