Sharing the Pain

While perusing the local paper here yesterday I came upon a story about the service reductions going on at TUS. belttightening.jpg As earlier announced airline service reductions begin to appear in the current schedules, the manifestation of those cuts will be reduced passenger counts and service to fewer cities. Tucson Airport passenger numbers for July dipped 3% versus last year, and that’s before any real reductions hit. As of of next week the list of cities served from TUS will shrink 41%, down to 18 cities.
The brunt of service reductions will occur at medium and smaller airports, like TUS, but even hub airports will feel a pinch. Phoenix Sky Harbor, long the nemesis of Tucson Airport, will see an 11% reduction in scheduled service during the 4th quarter of 2008. However it will still be a viable alternative to TUS, who will see a reduction of 26% for the upcoming quarter. Complicating matters a bit is the price of driving your own vehicle from TUS to PHX, not to mention the 2 hours out of your life (each way).
It will be interesting to see how airport managers react to the new reality of airline service. Long thought to be a “cost of doing business”, in the era of charging for pillows and blankets airport operational costs are squarely on the airline’s radar scope. The problem with some (most?) airports is that they are run like a bureaucracy, not a business. I, for one, don’t choose an airport because of the cool artsy fartsy statues in the lobby or the facade of the terminal. If then air service is there at a price that makes sense, the restrooms are clean, and the baggage claim area roof doesn’t leak, then I am a happy man.
Godzilla.jpgClearly this is an opportunity for some small and medium sized airports to actually grow, at the expense of those airports who fail to understand that their costs have a direct relationship to the level of air service at their facility. Airlines are parking airplanes and putting employees out on the street. Airports need to participate in the pain by tightening their belts and lowering their costs, or watching their service levels drop.