The Single Best and Three Worst of the 2013 Small Community Air Service Development Proposals

Yesterday I wrote about four 2013 Small Community Air Service Development applications that I thought were interesting enough to discuss. But consider that the appetizer. Today, I’m looking at the four that really get me worked up. That’s not all negative. There’s one in particular that I liked. But the other three? I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. Fortunately, and strangely, the feds felt the same way I did. Let’s take a look at each of these four, starting with the one that I liked the best of all.

SCASDP Applications

Del Rio, Texas – Thumbs Up from Me, Thumbs Up from the Feds
Little Del Rio lies on the Mexican border, more than 150 non-interstate miles west of San Antonio. Back in April, the city’s only airline, United, pulled out. American is interested in coming in if it can get some initial financial support. Seems reasonable to me since this would be a new airline trying to replace lost service. But what I like most about this application is how much of the community actually participated. This is small town-awesomeness at its best.

Not only did they get local businesses to commit to travel funds to support the service, but they even got local individuals. You can see the letters in the proposal. Billie Jo Grafton, the airport manager, personally pledged $500 to offset the costs incurred in the first year. Billie Jo also committed to buying 2 roundtrip tickets to Boise and 1 to Dallas in the first year. Jackie Robinson will buy 2 roundtrip tickets to New York and 2 to Phoenix. Robert Eads has committed to 4 roundtrip ticket to Dallas. Come on, how great is that? And there’s plenty more. Read the application to see them all.

The feds liked it as well, apparently. Del Rio now has $500,000 to get service up and running. You have to think that American will be thrilled to add another Texas destination right now, especially if it won’t lose money doing it.

Boise, Idaho – Thumbs Down from Me, Thumbs Down from the Feds
Sometimes, airports get greedy. Boise has good service to a lot of cities, but it’s not happy with what it has. It wants more service heading east. Today, Boise supports flights on Delta to Minneapolis and United to Chicago, but that’s not enough. Apparently, the flights are so full that people just have no options available. (And for some reason, it doesn’t count Denver as a hub for traveling east.)

Now, if the airlines thought Boise could profitably support more service, they’d add capacity either through bigger airplanes or more flights. But Boise thinks it needs a new destination as well because it is just that awesome. It would like Delta to Atlanta, a route Delta tried seasonally that didn’t work. It would take American to Dallas as well, but American did so poorly at that airport via LA that it pulled out. United to Newark and Dulles would be fine as well (suuuuure). Oh, and JetBlue to JFK would work. I find it amusing that the airport says slots and congestion at Chicago prevent United from adding more flights yet somehow it thinks it can easily get flights to JFK and Newark. Please.

To me, this application was a non-starter and the feds agreed.

Huntsville, Alabama – Thumbs Down from Me, Thumbs Down from the Feds
Huntsville has balls to apply for this grant again. Last time, it won funds to bring AirTran into town from Atlanta Baltimore and Orlando. Those flights were empty and fares were rock bottom. The service ended and I couldn’t imagine anyone trying it again for a long time. But here we are with Huntsville actually thinking it can get more government funds.

Huntsville says when AirTran came in, passengers stopped flying out of other airports and fares plunged. No kidding – Huntsville had some of the lowest fares in the nation since AirTran was so desperately trying to fill seats. Now, Huntsville wants a whopping $1.5 million from the feds to do a 2-year incentive for another airline. No way. And the feds rightly shot that one down.

Wichita, Kansas – Thumbs Down from Me, Thumbs Down from the Feds
Oh, Wichita. Will you ever learn? Wichita is something of a joke in my mind when it comes to air service. It thinks it deserves way more service than it gets, and it’s spent a decade pouring money into AirTran to keep the airline flying to the airport. Other airlines have come and gone and gotten angry at the money that gets wasted on supporting a new competitor to those who already want to fly to the airport without subsidy. And now, Wichita wants more money, federal-style.

When Southwest took over AirTran, it slashed service to a lot of small cities. Wichita wasn’t one of them. Wichita actually ended up with service to Vegas, Dallas, and Chicago. Sure, it lost AirTran’s Atlanta service, but it had a lot more connecting options available along with great new service to other cities. So what is it that Wichita wants? It wants $500,000 so it can promote Southwest in Wichita. Yet another example of Wichita playing favorites and supporting one carrier over another. This is a joke, and the feds agree. No money is heading to Wichita this year. Whew.

[Original photo via Flickr user Jeff Samsonow]

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