BANGOR, Maine — A nationally recognized aviation consultant who has worked recently with Bangor International Airport says the airline industry is not in dire straits as some believe, but he wouldn’t invest in it right now either.
Michael Boyd, president of Colorado-based Boyd Group International, and BIA Director Rebecca Hupp hosted members of the media on Tuesday to talk about the struggling industry and what it means for Bangor.
Boyd began by pointing out that BIA is one of only two airports in New England that have actually seen their numbers increase in the last several months, something he called encouraging. The other is Portland International Jetport. BIA has seen its passenger traffic increase for six consecutive months. He did concede, however, that the recent loss of Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines service to Bangor would hurt.
One of the points the national aviation consultant stressed is importance of market demand. Bangor is in an area that likely will never have the same critical mass of people as Portland or Manchester, N.H. So when customers ask why BIA doesn’t recruit low-cost carriers such as JetBlue or AirTran, which Portland has added recently, the answer is that the service just can’t make money in Bangor.
“It’s the same reason Bangor doesn’t have a Ritz Carlton or a Nordstrom,” Hupp said. “And that’s fine. We also don’t sit in traffic for an hour on the way to work.”
So while Bangor may never have JetBlue, that doesn’t mean it cannot continue to add service. Hupp said Allegiant Air, for instance, which operates nonstop flights from Bangor to Sanford, Fla., near Orlando, has increased flights at BIA to meet growing demand.
Boyd also pointed out that JetBlue’s smallest planes have 100 seats and that Southwest Airlines, another low-cost carrier, has a minimum of 130 seats per plane. Most flights in and out of Bangor hold 50-75 passengers.
Still, there is room for increased service. The market continues to grow for flights to Florida, and Bangor is actively seeking nonstop service to Washington, D.C., the one major hub on the Eastern Seaboard that BIA doesn’t serve. The recent loss of Delta’s twice-daily service to Boston is regrettable, Hupp said, but it’s not as big a deal as some have suggested because Boston is not the hub it once was.
Both Boyd and Hupp said BIA has several things going for it that other airports of similar size do not have. Bangor has the Maine Air National Guard base on-site, as well as other paid tenants. The airport is a fixed-based operator, which means BIA employees, not airline employees, handle some ground service duties. Bangor also is frequented by many diverted planes and other aircraft looking to refuel.
The biggest complaint, Hupp said, is from customers who want to see lower prices. The airport director explained that BIA is effectively a landlord for carriers and cannot tell them what to charge. For every ticket sold on flights in and out of Bangor, the airport makes just $3.06.
Hupp and Boyd planned to make a similar presentation to Bangor city councilors Tuesday evening.