July 12, 2010 9:35:00 AM
JACKSON -- Golden Triangle Regional Airport is a prime example of how good business makes for a busy airport.
Mike Hainsey, director of Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTRA), said "airports are just a mirror of the local economy."
"In our case, we have been making plans for these projects so that the airport infrastructure is ready when the businesses are. That business model has worked well for us."
Businesses such as American Eurocopter''s helicopter manufacturing plant, the Severstal steel mill and Stark Aerospace, which makes defense-related products, are near the Columbus airport.
Hainsey said the Columbus airport has been fortunate not to have to take money from EAS, which he calls "velvet handcuffs" that can prevent airport growth.
Some regional airports are subsidized by the government through the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. EAS guarantees a minimal level of scheduled air service and currently serves approximately 140 rural communities nationwide that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service.
Other Mississippi commercial service airports that do not accept EAS subsidies are Gulfport, Jackson and Tunica. Tunica gets some private financial help from the gaming industry.
EAS "maintains a minimum level of service for communities, but if those communities want to continue to grow, the airlines will have to give up the subsidy to do it," Hainsey said.
The logic is that if an airport can afford to grow, it doesn''t need the government''s help.
The Golden Triangle Regional Airport between Columbus, Starkville and West Point has been one of the most successful in recent years, specifically because of a burgeoning economy in the area. GTRA''s business increased by more than 29 percent from calendar year 2007 to 2008, according to Federal Aviation Administration numbers.
Airport business is up another 3 percent from last year, Hainsey said, unlike many airports statewide that are down 10 percent or more. The airport just opened a $1.5-million terminal expansion in May, which is part of $15 million in airport improvement projects that are planned for the next year.
The Golden Triangle area has been fortunate to have more than $3.5 billion in new industry since 2003. The airport''s traffic is about 80 percent business travel.
btuman commented at 7/12/2010 1:29:00 PM:
we read all about the GTRA and how great it is but it is still the highest priced option when considering flights. Bham, Memphis and Jackson still have better prices, better flight times and better service. I for one used to fly out of GTR 50 or 60 times a year but no more. I live 5 minutes from GTRA but drive somewhere else 99% of the time. When Delta gets right with flight schedules and prices is when GTRA will grow. Most of these articles also have dated usage information not very current.
charliebrown commented at 7/12/2010 10:15:00 PM:
Hate to say it but I have to agree with btuman. There have been instances when flying from B'ham was 50% cheaper. Schedules used to be ok but now do seem pretty limited.
cubguy commented at 11/9/2010 2:30:00 PM:
While I understand it is hard to secure options as far as air service to and from an airport, until marketing personnel contact as many carriers as possible and make more attempts for more service, the cost to fly in and out of GTR. When Northwest (Airlink) flew into GTR the cost was much more affordable and there were options as far as destinations. Now you have Delta (ASA) and no one else. In the past there have been options for Memphis and Dallas, and now those are gone. With the expansions and the Aerospace park, there should be re-considerations made regarding additional destinations.
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