Opinion

Flying UPA will help airport progress

Members of the CDT’s community editorial board identified competitive and reliable air travel as a key factor in the Centre County area’s economic development efforts. Last month, the board met with University Park Airport director Bryan Rodgers, Centre County Airport Authority director James Meyer and Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County President and CEO Vern Squier to discuss the benefits, concerns and the future of air travel in the region.

SECOND OF THREE PARTS

Easy and affordable parking, short lines at security and quick boarding times are a few of the benefits regional travelers realize when flying out of University Park Airport — or SCE, which is the airport’s designated code. Other factors like multiple legs, small planes with limited in-cabin storage and limited terminal amenities can make it a challenge.

We all want to see service options increase and improve. To enhance an attractive amenity in community, bring in more airlines and add destinations, our airport needs more support from the community.

Airline industry decisions are made based upon demand. The best way to get new destinations and services added is to fly from and to SCE.

Demand is key to increasing service, and management has been proactive in demonstrating those needs with airlines. Strong relationships have been built and maintained with Delta, American and United, making SCE one of few regional airports to carry service from the top three airlines.

Airport administration knows that cost can be an issue. They don’t set fares — that is done by the airlines. They understand it is tempting for passengers to book lower-fare flights out of Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Newark or Pittsburgh, and cut out University Park. To help travelers, SCE provides a “cost comparison calculator” on its website. Check it before driving somewhere to fly. Including the costs of parking and road travel can make SCE a competitive option.

According to University Park Airport administrators, the airport has a “leakage rate” of about 40 percent, meaning 60 percent of people in the region book their initial flight with SCE, while 40 percent travel to another airport. This leakage number means as much to airlines as flights booked.

In order for SCE to successfully make the argument for new destinations and expanded services, it has to be able to show it has the demand. The best way to increase demand is to encourage everyone to choose University Park Airport or at least start your search there. If you ultimately book out of another city, sharing this feedback with airlines can help too.

Change won’t happen overnight, but the best way to help University Park Airport expand, improve and continue to drive our local economy, is to continue, or start, booking your flights out of University Park.

Tomorrow: Where to complain.

Tell us what you think. We will compile your letters about air service for publication in a few days. You can send your letter quickly by going to http://www.centredaily.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/submit-letter/.)

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