Dayton airport wants to stop ‘passenger leakage.’ Here are its ‘fly local’ plans.

Jason Williams, from Georgia, traveled to Dayton Dec. 7, 2020 for work.
2020 may have been the most difficult year in the history of the Dayton International Airport is coming to a close, but improving passenger traffic volumes and promising vaccine candidates offer a ray of hope that 2021 will see growth and recovery.
Jason Williams, from Georgia, traveled to Dayton Dec. 7, 2020 for work. 2020 may have been the most difficult year in the history of the Dayton International Airport is coming to a close, but improving passenger traffic volumes and promising vaccine candidates offer a ray of hope that 2021 will see growth and recovery.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

About 45% of the Dayton International Airport’s core market of passengers fly out of other airports, but local officials want to reduce that passenger “leakage” and attract new travelers and air service.

The airport plans to apply for a federal grant for a “fly local” marketing campaign, and its partners are expected to pursue state funds to restore or add routes.

“We have an opportunity here in Dayton to regrow our service ... to right size this airport,” said Gil Turner, Dayton’s director of aviation.

2020 may have been the most difficult year in the history of the Dayton International Airport is coming to a close, but improving passenger traffic volumes and promising vaccine candidates offer a ray of hope that 2021 will see growth and recovery.
2020 may have been the most difficult year in the history of the Dayton International Airport is coming to a close, but improving passenger traffic volumes and promising vaccine candidates offer a ray of hope that 2021 will see growth and recovery.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

The Dayton airport is the closest aviation facility to nearly 1.5 million residents, but many people in the market area choose to fly out of other airports, including Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis, said Kirk Lovell, a consultant with Mead & Hunt hired to increase air service at the airport.

“We are leaking about 45% of our traffic,” he said. “We need to start pulling that back.”

The airport plans to pursue a $500,000 U.S. Department of Transportation grant to more aggressively market the facility. The grant would need a 25% community match.

Flying local is an investment in the community and the local airport, Lovell said, because it keeps dollars close to home and more passenger traffic will result in additional air service.

The airport has some major advantages over its competition that advertising efforts will be able to highlight, according to the consultant and local leaders.

The Dayton International Airport's air service. CONTRIBUTED
The Dayton International Airport's air service. CONTRIBUTED

Time is money, and the airport is incredibly convenient, especially to the regional business community, said Chris Kershner, president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 2,300 businesses across 10 counties.

Many people live 20 minutes or less from the airport, Kershner said, and travelers can park close and get through check-in and security and arrive at their gates within about 15 minutes.

Other airports are a long drive away, and parking and getting through ticketing and takes far more time, he said.

“I can tell you that this airport is absolutely a business concierge airport,” Kershner said. “It is a strategic asset.”

People wait in line at the Allegiant gate at the Dayton airport Monday Dec. 7, 2020.
People wait in line at the Allegiant gate at the Dayton airport Monday Dec. 7, 2020.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

The airport’s community partners, including the chamber, plan to apply for JobsOhio grant money that can provide up to $1 million to airlines that offer new commercial service or restore routes that were eliminated due to COVID-19, said Turner, Dayton’s director of aviation.

The Dayton airport wants to add new service, like it did this year with seasonal flights to Miami and Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Officials are targeting Boston and Los Angeles as potential new destinations.

Dayton International Airport has seen a 60% decline in passenger traffic through TSA.  CONTRIBUTED
Dayton International Airport has seen a 60% decline in passenger traffic through TSA. CONTRIBUTED

The JobsOhio commercial air service restoration program provides guaranteed revenue to airlines, which makes it more attractive and less risky to launch new service, officials said.

The program has about $10 million annually to distribute, and JobsOhio says it will provide six to 12 months of funding support for air service in markets where airlines have cancelled or plan to cancel services.

In the short term, the Dayton airport is focused on increasing capacity. Before the outbreak, the airport had about 50 to 55 daily departures. Right now, it has about 23 to 28 daily departures.

Long term, the airport wants new strategic business destinations and to diversify its mix of carriers.

Lovell said the airport hopes air service to LaGuardia (New York) and Minneapolis will be restored soon and flights to Denver will resume in the spring.

Shoe shiner, Michael Johnson, has been working at the Dayton International Airport for 36 years ."I'll be glad when the COVID goes away, Johnson said."
Shoe shiner, Michael Johnson, has been working at the Dayton International Airport for 36 years ."I'll be glad when the COVID goes away, Johnson said."

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the airport’s largest business travel partner, with about 160,000 outbound passengers, Lovell said. But it’s possible that some or all of about 30,000 outbound passengers at the Cincinnati airport come from the air force base, he said.

If people from the base are flying out of Cincinnati, local officials said they would like to figure out how to get them to fly out of Dayton instead.

Airport officials said they will work with the base to identify in-demand travel destinations and see if the airlines can offer service to meet the base’s needs.

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