There was a pretty decent turnout of concerned folks. They ran the gamut from professional ecodevo types from the Chamber, the Midlands Alliance and Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism to business travelers with a beef about the cost of parking at CAE.
Some main points from what Mr. Boyd said:
- “That scraping sound is not an iceberg.” The fact that Southwest chose Charleston and Greenville and not Columbia is not ahuge deal. Southwest is what it is, and he doesn’t see it as the cure for Columbia’s ills. It’s not “the giant sucking sound.”
- While we might have challenges with fares and losing passengers to Charlotte, for business purposes CAE provides what Columbia needs — connections to where business travelers need to be.
- Main thing travel into and out of Columbia needs to be is reliable, to not have our flights be among those that get canceled when there’s a rainstorm.
- Airlines don’t care about our civic enthusiasm. They don’t want to view cute or pleading videos. Don’t send them the mayor. What they care about is whether they’re going to make any money, because nobody’s taking risks these days.
- No, don’t start your own airline. Air South? “We don’t talk about that in polite society.”
- What can civic-minded folks who want to see the airport grow as a boost to the local economy DO? Check out the local airport first. Don’t assume it can’t meet your needs. Give it a chance.
- We just don’t have enough traffic — enough passengers on big enough airplanes — to bring down fares. When someone pointed out that smaller airports such as Florence and Augusta have lower fares, he said he had no idea why. “I used to be in airline pricing, so I have no understanding of it whatsoever.”
Based on what Mr. Boyd said and a brief conversation with Airport Executive Director Dan Mann after the presentation, the thinking seems to be that Columbia’s best chance for expansion of air service lies with Delta, not USAirways. So our local economic developers in the air transportation field are likely to be looking more to Atlanta, less to Charlotte.
Lanier, Lora and Brad went to the Midlands Aviation Summit today at the convention center, which was the community’s chance to hear airport consultant Michael Boyd of Boyd Group International (above) assessing the state of, and future prospects for, Columbia Metropolitan Airport.