January 14, 2004
American Connection to leave Purdue airport
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Corporate Airlines, doing business as American Connection, a regional partner with American Airlines, announced today (Wednesday, 1/14) its intention to discontinue service to Purdue University Airport.
Corporate Airlines, based in Smyrna, Tenn., has been providing regional service between Purdue Airport and St. Louis, Mo., an American and American Connections hub, since December 2002.
"The CEO of Corporate Airlines, Doug Caldwell, called to tell me they are discontinuing service as of Feb. 15 because of low ridership," said Betty Stansbury, Purdue Airport director.
The decision did not come as a surprise to Stansbury, who keeps a close watch on the number of passengers at Purdue Airport, the nation's first university-owned and operated airport.
"Over the past several months, we've observed declining numbers of travelers," she said.
She attributes that decline to ticket prices that are not competitive, scheduling that doesn't fit the needs of potential customers and the lack of convenient connecting flights in St. Louis.
"For the month of December 2002, we handled 1,822 passengers, while in December of 2003 we handled 571, a decline of almost two-thirds," Stansbury said. "We started seeing a decline when American went to a new schedule in August and at the same time dropped half of its flights out of St. Louis."
In August, American Connection changed from a three-flight-a-day schedule to two flights in and out of Purdue Airport.
The airport and the university are looking for a potential replacement service, Stansbury said.
Although Stansbury said she believes the Lafayette-West Lafayette area generates about 200,000 airline trips a year, most travelers drive to Indianapolis to catch their flights rather than fly from Purdue Airport to a connecting flight in another city.
"This airport has always struggled," Stansbury said. "American is the 14th airline we've had in 30 years. The passenger numbers were growing before 9/11. But with only two or three departures a day here, it's difficult to compete with Indy. I am convinced that the right airline with the right schedule and competitive fares could make it work here."
The community rallied to offer a one-time incentive package worth about $100,000 to American Connection to come to the airport. Mike Brooks, president of Lafayette-West Lafayette Development Corp. (formerly known as Greater Lafayette Progress Inc.), and Dana Smith, president of the Lafayette-West Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, raised more than $60,000 of the package.
These funds were used to market the service, and came from the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Purdue Research Park, Greater Lafayette Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greater Lafayette Community Development Corp., Lafayette Urban Enterprise Zone and the Greater Lafayette Community Foundation.
Purdue also has offered its employees a $50 rebate for flying from Purdue Airport on university business.
The remaining amount of the incentive package was made up through waiver of airport fees, hotel room discounts and reductions of airport office rental rates, Stansbury said.
Parking and luggage carts are free to everyone using the terminal. Check-in for domestic flights is quick, with a recommended 45-minute preflight check-in time, compared to the recommended one- to two-hour recommended preflight check-in at Indianapolis.
Each year the airport receives a $1 million federal subsidy if it boards at least 10,000 customers.
Purdue Airport was founded in 1930. It has two runways, one 4,200 feet and the other 6,600 feet. The airport can accommodate any size aircraft except a widebody jet. Boeing 727 and 737 jets routinely land at Purdue Airport, and 757s also have landed there.
Writer: Reni Winter, (765) 496-3133, email@example.com
Source: Betty Stansbury, (765) 743-3442, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
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