The City of Chico’s Airport Commission is developing its 2013-2014 work plan. At last night’s meeting, I was pleased that the Commission chose to adopt the language I suggested (“Preserve, Promote, and Expand”) for the element about commercial air service.
Here is the summary of the “Preserve, Promote and Expand” concept that I sent to the Commission in March, which I think concisely presents the key points. Future posts in this series will add more detail to each of the three goals.
Craft a long-term strategy for commercial air service in Chico that incorporates three themes: preserve, promote, and expand
We must preserve the service that we have – inadequate as it may be – because it will be very difficult if not impossible to bring air service back to Chico once it is gone.
We need to explore all possible avenues to promote the current service both to those who live in the Chico catchment area traveling outbound, and to those who are inbound to Chico from other cities.
In order to preserve the current service, we must do everything we can to make it successful. If we do not, then we not only risk losing the service we have, but we will also have much greater difficulty attracting the additional service we would like to have. Success breeds success.
We need to distinguish two different but equally important avenues of expanding service.
The first is to increase the frequency of flights on United Express between Chico and San Francisco. More flights means more reliability, more reliability means more demand, and more demand means more hope of achieving our second goal.
The second is to seek service by United Express or other carriers to new destinations. Los Angeles (LAX) has been cited as the single most important new market, but opportunities to the other western hub airports (Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix) should be pursued with just as much vigor, as well as Portland or Seattle to the north.
It is indispensable that we create a coalition of interests – business, political, and community – to work together. It will also require money to pay for the origin-destination data analysis that we (or a consultancy we hire) use to present our case to airline planners. Depending on the size of aircraft, physical and security infrastructure investments at the airport may also be mandatory as a precursor to expansion. Chico’s business community should understand that for there to be any chance of success they must be prepared to commit travel dollars in advance to a fund which guarantees the viability of a new service in its infancy.
Above all, it will require patience, perseverance, and ingenuity, and even with all of that there is no assurance of success.