Business leaders want more Dayton airport flights, destinations

A lack of direct flights or even the number of flights from the Dayton International Airport costs area companies thousands in extra expenses annually, business leaders said.

A group of about a dozen local business leaders have formed a committee — dubbed the “Corporate Airport Advisory Group” — in an effort to attract more flights to the Dayton airport for business travelers.

“As many of our companies in the region have a national and global reach, we need to ensure that the air carriers are aware of our business needs and destinations, so that the carriers can continue to invest and support our business community,” Daniel McCabe, chief administrative officer at Dayton’s CareSource Management Group, said in an email.

Such a group has never been formed in Dayton, members say. They are studying destinations and routes local business people need, said Chris Kershner, vice president of public policy and economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, Then they’ll approach airlines with their hopes, requests and suggestions, perhaps as early as this fall, he said.

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Compared to 44 direct flights at Cincinnati’s airport and 27 direct flights at Columbus’, the Dayton airport offers 14 direct flights. Akron’s airport, which is a similar size to Dayton, offers 11 direct flights.

Bruce Langos, a former chief operations officer at Miami Twp.-based global data giant Teradata, said a lack of direct commercial flights from Dayton International was a reason Teradata bought a corporate plane in 2007, maintaining that plane at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport, near what became Teradata’s Austin Landing corporate offices.

A lack of direct flights overseas and to key domestic sites proved a challenge for Teradata officers, Langos said.

“It’s productivity and it costs extra money,” he said “If you can’t make direct flights, then your overnight stays are longer. You have more overnight stays because you can’t get back. You have another day of rental cars; you have another day of per-diem costs.”

He added, “It actually drives the cost of travel up.”

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Vic Bonneau, president of GE Aviation’s Electric Power Integrated Systems in Vandalia, is leaving Saturday for the Paris Air Show. Last week, he went to a Lockheed Martin meeting in Dallas from Dayton. To get there, he had to fly to Atlanta first.

“I got there late,” Bonneau said. “I missed a meeting I wanted to have.”

Kershner said city staff, including Dayton Aviation Director Terry Slaybaugh, is aware of the advisory group’s work and is supportive. Slaybaugh did not return messages seeking comment.

The Dayton area is home to key businesses whose leaders often travel, including GE Aviation, Fuyao Glass America, law firm Wilmer Hale, LexisNexis, Spectrum Brands and others.

Asked if the airport is adequately serving local leaders, Kershner said: “I would say there is certainly room to grow. There are certain destinations that maybe don’t have direct service right now.”

Current non-stop flights from Dayton International have Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and other cities as destinations, according to the airport’s web site, flydayton.com.

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But locals want more direct destinations west and south, Kershner said.

“This is a two-way street,” McCabe said. “Dayton businesses need strong business air service to the destinations we need do business in. And the airlines needs business travelers to support their operations.”

The Dayton airport is often prized for how quickly flyers can park and move through security.

“Dayton is a wonderful airport — you can park your car and be in the terminal in five minutes,” Bonneau said.

But that speed comes as the number of passenger enplanements has fallen in recent years. In 2016, the airport had 1,035,263 passenger enplanements, down about 3.5 percent from 2015’s number of 1,072,620, which itself was down from 2014’s mark of 1,143,724 enplanements.

This month, Southwest Airlines pulled services out of Dayton. In May 2013, Frontier Airlines also discontinued service at the airport.

At the time, Dayton officials said the announcement signaled a growing trend in the airline industry of concentrating services in larger hub markets. After Southwest’s move, the airport is left with four airlines.

Bonneau is confident that airlines will listen to what local leaders have to say.

“We are a voice, and the airlines do listen to us,” he said. “And it’s not just us — it’s our customers too.”

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