US airlines add flights to smaller airports after years of turbulence

World Today

UNITED AIRLINES EXPRESS PLANEA United Airlines Express flight takes off. (United Airlines)

Getting to some of America’s lesser-known destinations is becoming easier, as big airlines return to small airports.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports, airlines are seeing sunny skies after years of turbulence.

After years of reduced flights and declining service, Fort Wayne International Airport handled more than 725,000 passengers in 2016.

The airport is just one example of an industry that is reversing a years-long trend, adding routes to airports often ignored.

“There is only so much growth in a large community, because there is plenty of capacity there,” Scott Hinderman, executive director of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, explained. “They need to go out and get the other ones in smaller communities, and try to get them on the airplane.”

Like most small and medium-sized airports, Fort Wayne offers direct service to hubs such as Chicago’s O’Hare International. And when operations were downsized, local business suffered as well.

John Urbahns, with Greater Fort Wayne Incorporated, sees the airport as key to the region’s growth.

“One of the impacts that we saw with taking away flights is that there was less opportunity for people to get here or get away from here,” according to Urbahns. “When we look at our businesses here in Fort Wayne, that is their gateway to other facilities across country or across the world.”

Large airlines are not expanding their service after years of doing the opposite. American Airlines recently unveiled plans to launch almost 50 new non-stop flights across the U.S., following a similar move by United.

As for the future, those at Fort Wayne International Airport are confident of further growth. Both in terms of traffic, as well as an increase in the size of planes flying the routes. It once again highlights the importance of the airport for local business.

“People are buying tickets,” Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s John Sampson said. “They will pay a little extra to fly out of this airport, because of the convenience to get in and out of here. We have to make that equation work for those major airlines if we are going to be a beneficiary of that.”

Although some smaller airports have not been as fortunate as Fort Wayne, many are enjoying upward momentum, spreading their wings and flying into sunny skies.