BIA Looks To Attract More Airlines 

At the Bangor International Airport they’re trying to recruit new airlines to fly in and out of Bangor. That’s proving to be difficult according to Rebecca Hupp the Director at BIA. Tuesday she was one of the speakers at a media briefing that focused on national trends in the aviation industry, and how those trends directly impact the Bangor region. Hupp described the role of BIA as a business. “The biggest complaint I always hear is the price,” Hupp says, “the analogy I always try to use is we’re like the mall, we provide the infrastructure, we’re the landlord. The airlines are our tenants, the car rentals are our tenants, we don’t tell them what to charge or what to offer just like the mall doesn’t tell Macy’s what to offer.”Micheal Boyd, President of Boyd Consulting was also on hand to help explain why recruiting new airlines is not as easy as it may seem. “You know it’s not a case of going to the airline store,” Boyd says, “people say the airport should just go get some more air service, oh good I’ll go to Walmart and we’ll order some, it doesn’t work that way.” Boyd says Bangor’s population and the tough economy are factors not in BIA’s favor. “The real issue is you don’t have a lot of airlines out there that want to expand, they are contracting and the economics have changed drastically, so you’re holding your own, your air traffic is growing, but when you have people who say ‘let’s get some more air service out of here’ go talk to the airlines because it has nothing to do with this airport they’re doing everything they can to make it happen.” The fact is Bangor is bucking the national trend when it comes to air traffic. “Year to date when you look around this region there’s only 2 airports, 2 big airports, that have passengers up, one is Bangor the other is Portland,” says Boyd. Bangor’s air traffic is up 10.5%, compared with the national average which shows traffic down 9.4%. BIA does have a few things that make it attractive to potential airlines. It features one of the largest, and best maintained, runways on the east coast. The runway is nearly 2 miles long and its performance in bad weather is also a plus. A number of flights are diverted there during the winter months. “The reasons airlines come here for transit is we have excellent reliability in terms of weather,” says Hupp, “we hear about weather in New York and Boston, and yet Bangor is still open.”BIA is funded entirely through airport revenue, using no tax dollars at all. The revenue streams the airport counts on come from parking, concessions, and most importantly ground service. The ground service BIA provides has been instrumental in luring airlines such as Allegiant Airlines. Ground service is usually performed by the airlines themselves and at the airlines expense. Things such as ticket sale, baggage handling, de-icing, and refueling. Even providing ground service is not enough of an incentive to lure airlines like Southwest. Boyd says there simply isn’t enough traffic at BIA. “They need 400,000 people to make it work,” says Boyd, “400,000 people, in other words they would have to take every passenger out of here and double it just for themselves to make it work out here.” Boyd says the smallest plane in Southwest’s fleet seats 130 passengers. The folks here realize that bringing in more airlines brings in more people. BIA is hoping to be the gateway to to all the sites within driving distance of Bangor and that’s the key to stimulating the economy. “The more people you can get in here to visit Bar Harbor, the more people you who want to go up to Katahdin, that’s what this is all about. They’re the ones who spend money and have economic impact.”