3 Links I Love: Why Won’t Airlines Fly Here?, European Mergers, Spirit’s Next CEO

This week’s featured link:
ROBERT PRICE: Struggling airport, growing city: What’s up with that?Bakersfield.com
This kind of of conversation has been had throughout smaller cities around the US. Why can’t we get more service? It’s never the population number that matters. A city with 100,000 consultants who travel every week will get a lot more service than a city with 1,000,000 teachers who don’t. (Yes it’s an oversimplification, but you get the point.) And geography does matter. The proximity of Bakersfield to the LA area is a huge pain point. Bakersfield will never have the choice and prices you can find in LA so a chunk of people will always drive. It’s a real issue, and I thought this was a good column about the struggles that smaller cities face.

Two for the road:
Dublin based City Jet merges with Spain’s Air NostrumIndependent.ie
How about some sexy regional merger action? The suave Spaniard, Air Nostrum, is getting hitched to the red-haired Irish maiden CityJet.

CEO-in-waiting talks about Spirit Airlines’ futureAssociated Press
Ted Christie will soon be running Spirit. Here’s an interview with him.

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19 Responses to 3 Links I Love: Why Won’t Airlines Fly Here?, European Mergers, Spirit’s Next CEO

  1. Ben in DC says:

    I flew out of Bakersfield a couple of times in the 2001/2002 time frame, so I was curious what had changed and what service they currently have. Other than a new airport terminal, which is a big improvement over what they had, it seems to have held pretty steady. When I flew out of there in 2001, they had AA flights to LA (I was on one of the last flights before they were discontinued shortly after 9/11), America West to PHX, and United to SFO. UA and AA flights were on turboprops. Fast forward 17 years and they still have PHX service (now on AA), along with UA flights to SFO and DEN. So while I understand the disappointment of not seeing service grow, at least it hasn’t followed the route of many smaller airports and downsized or vanished.

  2. Chris says:

    Seems like Kern Co. could have a bit more regional coordination to drive traffic to the airport. Just last year Inyokern (90 minutes away, granted in a different valley) used a federal grant to start service to LAX, with the stated purpose of convenient connections to markets like Washington DC.

    Presumably some/all of the traffic on that route could be persuaded to fly to Bakersfield through DFW or Denver, rather than connecting at LAX to an 8-seater…

  3. Davey says:

    The comparison between Bakersfield and most of the cities in the article is absurd. As you point out, Bakersfield is about 100 miles north of LAX. That’s like Milwaukee whining about why it doesn’t have more service than it does when it is about 70 miles north of ORD.

    Nashville has 1.5 million people, is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States and the airlines, particularly Southwest, know it. Salt Lake City is a Delta regional hub that allows Delta to move people around the intermountain west. Albuquerque is about 400 miles removed from the nearest major airport and a long way from anywhere not named Santa Fe. All of these cities have major locational or economic advantages Bakersfield just doesn’t have.

    Maybe the better question is why does Bakersfield think it deserves more service? If the demand was there, the airlines would flock to the place. Funny thing about capitalism — people follow the money!

    Just because you overbuild your Aviation infrastructure doesn’t mean you deserve more airline service.

    • TimH says:

      I came here to say that – New Orleans and Salt Lake might be “second tier cities” in that they’re definitely a peg below NY or LA (or even say, SF, Chicago, DC, etc.), but they’ve both got major sports franchises and have for a long, long time.

      It’s always funny reading local newspaper articles when you don’t have the context of a local – even the “these are nowhere” cities he compares to are crazy – Omaha has 50% more people than Bakersfield. He could have compared to say, Knoxville, TN, or Wichita KS, both of which are much closer in metro area size to Bakersfield (and have many more enplanements), but I guess those weren’t sexy enough cities. Bakersfield (or this columnist) must think very highly of itself.

    • james says:

      I thought the same – I love New Mexico because of its isolation – but ABQ/Santa Fe might as well be an island for the sake of business travel and weekend getaways out of state.

  4. Joel says:

    This article is dead on and rings very true to my experience. My wife is from Bakersfield, but we’ve nearly always flown into LAX or BUR when we go to visit her family. Price and number of connecting flights have been the top reasons. It’s consistently cheaper to get a midday, nonstop flight from where we live (formerly Chicago, now Nashville) and a rental car than to flight into BFL – as in, a difference of at least a few hundred dollars. Also – and the article doesn’t really say this – but one can do plenty of fun, convenient, non-air travel activities before/after flying out of LAX or BUR. Bakersfield is a working class town. If you’re going there, you have a specific reason for doing so, and you likely won’t carve out time to do anything beyond your specific reason. The closest leisure-type activities are either in LA, on the coast, or in the mountains. I just don’t see how BFL can compete with the lower fares and the wide array of options (travel-related and non-travel-related) of its neighbors.

  5. A says:

    Umm, Bakersfield in terms of air service should lie somewhere about the same as Poughkeepsie, NY. Regardless of local population they are both about a 2 hour drive from major US airports – LAX and JFK. And Bismarck ND is a whopping 6.5 hour drive to the nearest major airport (MSP). One could also argue that the oil industry in ND is larger than CA (it is in terms of barrels extracted) so they have more room to gripe. I’m all for local boosters wanting to get more air service to their towns but I’m guessing people in North Dakota wished they were a 2 hour drive from a gateway airport like LAX. More sensible perspective would be nice.

  6. Kilroy says:

    I’m not very familiar with SoCal, but I like the comparison of the NYC metro area in relation to Bakersfield. When you have several significant airports in a ~2 hour drive, not to mention other smaller airports in the area, a smaller population with fewer professionals and less disposable income, and an area not known for the attractions of the big city area (whether true or not, the point is the perception and the tourism/activity involved), it’s hard to get many flights. This is true whether you are Bakersfield or New Haven.

    • I remember flying ORD – HVN on a UA 737 back in the 1990’s. No one would do anything like that now. It’s either drive to Bradley, NYC, or try to find something out of Weschester County.

  7. Ron says:

    I agree with all the commenters above that the comparisons in the Bakersfield article are ridiculous. A more relevant comparison is Santa Barbara: slightly closer to L.A. than Bakersfield, about half the population, yet the airport consistently has 2-3 times the traffic of Bakersfield even in Bakersfield’s good years. So how come Santa Barbara is so successful?

    • TimH says:

      Hmm, maybe because it’s Santa Barbara is close to that big blue wet thing? Or it might be because Santa Barbara’s median household income is 30% higher than Bakersfield’s. (Even that hides the fact that if Santa Barbara has a LOT of very wealthy people – the mean household income in Santa Barbara is in the six-figures, which puts it on a pretty short list in the US.)

  8. EthaninSF says:

    Living in San Francisco and having to commute quite often to Bakersfield for work is a challenge. It is just far enough (especially with traffic) that driving regularly is a pain. However, the 1-2 daily flights from SFO on UA are exorbitantly priced – and I understand why – the jet needs to be subsidized by 20 passengers. The flights are never full. I have also routed through Phoenix as well a few times and it is the same. If only California could get it’s high speed rail act together before 2049 or whatever date they claim it will be operational. If LA residents could get to BFL in under an hour, airlines like Allegiant could offer service and might be able to fill their planes. For now, my best option is to fly to BUR and drive the 1.5hrs. With hourly departures on Southwest, you can’t beat that kind of flexibility.

  9. Matt D says:

    Why can’t the Central Valley just be happy with Amtrak and Megabus? Everyone in the state knows that Bakersfield to Stockton is the cultural, economic, and social inferior to the important people on the coast. The Central valley already does serve an important role: to be the whipping boy for everyone on the coast and to serve as a repository for the waste and air pollution. And to provide routes for in transit trucks and trains. And now they have the gall to want cheap air service too? They should be on their knees thanking the Coastal elites that they have any air service at all. And that they do have access to the Bay and SoCal.

    (total sarcasm. But sadly a lot of people in this state would actually take that as dead serious)

    • Jim M says:

      So on the money its not even funny. . . .Fresno and Bakersfield deserve some sort of air service. . .but not both. Getting to LA or SF with traffic is a very undependable/unreliable option. There are a few million people that live there. The Central Valley just feeds and provides oil to California. No biggie.

  10. Itami says:

    The author comparing Bakersfield to the likes of Salt Lake City and New Orleans seems rather presumptuous, no?

  11. Dave says:

    I was stationed at Edwards AFB at one time and would fly to Seattle a few times a year to visit friends, Loved the fact that I could fly out of Bakersfield to either San Francisco or LA to make a connection. At the time United flew a 737 to both places and it was very convenient and beat the heck out of the drive to LAX Free parking too which was always nice.

  12. Deborah Todd says:

    Just met the CEO of VIA Airlines who I think has the money, experience and fortitude to get small cities to work with him to make his airline successful. I would try to get an interview with him. He spoke at our Rotary Club this week..Very impressive as he is coming to Baton Rouge, my town, with horrible service provided by Delta and American. He is working with the community and actually cares about us! Im all in and will support VIA whenever possible.

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