Michael D. Wittman, who has written widely about America’s airports, predicts that without significant support from local residents and businesses, many smaller airports are likely to stagnate. The author, a former member of the research staff at M.I.T.’s International Center for Air Transportation, is now a consultant at InterVISTAS Consulting LLC in Boston.
Except for Reagan National Airport and tiny Shenandoah Valley Regional, Virginia’s nine commercial airports, including Dulles International, have suffered losses in service since 2007. In the current environment, smaller airports in particular “will likely be unable to return to pre-recession levels of air service and airline connectivity,” writes Wittman.
But by being creative, the state’s smaller and mid-sized airports may find opportunities to bolster their service, he writes. To continue to grow air service availability, Virginia’s small airports should focus on the carriers in growth mode – particularly, ultra-low-cost carriers like Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant, Wittman writes. The large airlines don’t appear ready to reintroduce routes to small markets, he adds. But these carriers have been adding flights to medium-sized airports in the last year and if this trend continues, it would be good news for airports in Norfolk and Richmond, he says.
Wittman cites Newport News International Airport’s partnership with a startup airline, PEOPLExpress, to provide service after losing flights from other carriers as a good example of an airport taking an innovative approach to build air service connectivity in the face of significant challenges. Airports in such cities as Charlottesville, Roanoke and Lynchburg are also looking to take small but promising steps.