INDIANAPOLIS - City and airport officials have begun a campaign to land more non-stop flights in and out of Indianapolis. Deputy Mayor Michael Huber said it's key to "economic development," and a priority for some of the city's biggest employers.
"Time is the main reason," Huber said. "What we hear is time and time is money."
Melissa Dobson of Westfield agrees. Dobson flies regularly to Hartford, Connecticut on business.
"Every time I take two small planes to get there and it takes eight hours of out my day when it should take three or four," Dobson said.
Todd Goers, flying home to Charlotte, also expressed frustration over the lack of options. His itinerary took him from Indianapolis to Cleveland to Charlotte.
"I'm hoping I have a smooth connection and I get on, because I have 45 minutes to make my connection and there's always the possibility that this flight will be late and I won't make it and not get home tonight and that would be extremely aggravating," Goers said.
Catching non-stops has become more difficult in recent years. Indianapolis now has 34 non-stop destinations (two of which are seasonal.) That's down from 45 in 2005.
It's not just Indianapolis. Airport Authority Chairman Mike Wells said the decline in non-stops is industry-wide. Like drivers, airlines have taken a hit at the pump. They want to make sure the planes they fly are full of passengers.
Wells said, "The issue is with oil over $100 a barrel it's very difficult for airlines to fly over existing hubs and go to a non-stop city" [if the planes aren't flying at capacity.]
He said that's why they're going after key business cities, mostly on the west coast, which has very non-stop destinations. Wells said the top contenders include San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Texas and Seattle. They're also pursuing additional non-stops to cities like Los Angeles.
Wells said the business community is a key player in the push.
"Yes, they're very interested. In fact, we've been in discussions with some to actually provide an economic commitment to the airlines so if they had non-stops from here to there, say San Francisco, they'd buy so many dollars worth of tickets, and those things can help get service sometimes," Wells said.
Huber noted it's not just about serving the businesses in central Indiana, "but for people outside our city. Having great accessibility means greater visibility and it puts us on the map with people who make business decisions, those people who are looking at new branches to locate their companies or new business ventures they want to invest in."
Of course, it's not just business travelers who put a premium on non-stop flights. Dawn Holtzapple, headed on spring break with her family said non-stops are a priority.
"Very much so. We hate connections, especially with the kids," she said. "The day drags on and it makes it much longer and with a six-year-old boy tempers flare eventually."
Wells said a work group would spend the next several months working on a plan to attract more non-stops, which includes identifying the most viable destinations and the airlines best suited to take on those routes.