Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (KITH) Works to Gain More Customers

Kathryn's Report:

Just because it’s an airport, doesn’t mean it can’t expand its offerings back down to the ground.

The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport and manager Mike Hall don’t have any major announcements to make, but are working toward larger goals on the ground and in the air as the number of people flying out of Ithaca has decreased.

The topic came up at the June Lansing Town Board meeting when Tompkins County legislature Mike Sigler gave a briefing.

“The whole point of this is to get people where they need to be safely and efficiently and quickly,” Hall said.

The grand plan on the commercial side is to reduce hassle for customers flying out of the small regional airport. To start with, it means looking into the airport becoming a hub for buses.

Since airlines recommend travelers get to the airport two hours beforehand to clear security and require them to be checked in a half-an-hour before flight time, flying can take a lot longer than the time written on the ticket. For some destinations, such as New York City at a shade under four hours away, it’s not worth it to take a plane. It is just as quick and can be less of a hassle to take ground transportation.

“When I was a kid we had a railroad and when you wanted to go to New York City you got on a train,” Hall said. “Well, we don’t have that anymore. You can also get to New York almost as quickly on a bus when you consider getting through security.”

The airport provides flights to and from the major hubs of Philadelphia, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey. All are major hubs with the idea that travelers won’t have to stack up a lot of layover time and connections.

“Our goal here at the airport is that we will fly airport appropriate stage lengths,” he said, referring to flying longer distances to reach more options. “You can reach jet service stage lengths to hubs that will allow one transfer and then for you to get to any major market in the world. Our goal is to have a jet stage hub and then one transfer to any place in the world.”

The problem is when snow and ice come crashing down, bringing airports in the northeast to a halt. Though the Lansing location may be clear and ready to go, the larger hubs can get backed up quickly with larger planes taking precedent.

“Certain destinations are probably just as well served if not better served by surface transportation than they are by air,” he said.

The tri-state area gets hurt hardest by weather issues due to the high level of airports in the vicinity. And with a high concentration of passengers at Ithaca wanting to head west or to Europe, Hall said, the airport is looking at new hubs.

Charlotte and Chicago have been in the discussion for at least a year and were brought up again by Tompkins County legislator Mike Sigler at the Lansing Board Meeting in June during an airport update.

Hall said the hubs are “literative examples of jetstage hubs that have tremendous connectivity and therefore would be of interest to us.”

He added that many travelers starting at Ithaca are ultimately traveling to the Pacific Rim or even to Europe, making it their focus. He said the airport has a federal grant to investigate new westbound services.
“So we’re working on this stuff and we’re nowhere near having something to say, but that’s the strategy we’re following,” he said.

The runway will be shut down for the first time in 22 years between July 8 and July 23 while a new one is set in place. Hall said they’re also looking to do terminal rehab since it hasn’t been worked on since before Sept. 11 and the laws set in place afterward.

While they do that, Hall said they’d also like to add a customs facility for the general aviation load.

“Hardly a week goes by that we don’t have (private) international business jets in here that we’d just as soon have land here directly,” he said. “If you’re going to charter a jet, you’re paying premium price and want to get where you want to quick quickly and efficiently and stopping someplace else to clear customs does not fit their business model.”

Hall said interestingly, the airport does have a lot of general aviation, or private planes, coming in from overseas.

“That’s reflective of an international nature of our community,” he said. “We’re far more internationally connected than any other community our size. We’re just trying to shape the service that’s associated with the airport to support the needs of the community.”

Original article can be found here:

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