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"Wisconsin airport 'leaking' flights to Milwaukee, Chicago"
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Dane County airport 'leaking' flights to Milwaukee, Chicago
By Marv Balousek
The Wisconsin State Journal
The biggest obstacle to improving airline service at the Dane County
Regional Airport may be 82 miles away in Milwaukee.
The Madison airport is the closest to a competing airport among seven
comparable cities. And a second competing airport, Chicago's O'Hare
International Airport, is about 135 miles away.
Madison business leaders believe that increasing the nonstop
destinations served by the Dane County airport would help attract and
retain businesses. When airport director Brad Livingston was hired a
year ago by Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, one of her priorities
for him was to get more nonstop flights serving Madison.
But getting the airlines to offer more nonstop flights means they have
to be persuaded that the Madison airport could capture some of what the
airline industry calls "leakage" to the airports in Milwaukee and
Livingston plans to meet with airline route planners next month about
improving Madison service. He's also working with the Greater Madison
Chamber of Commerce in building a community business travel database.
Some smaller cities have gotten nonstop service by offering revenue
guarantees to the airlines or setting up travel banks where businesses
buy tickets in advance.
Livingston said about 64 percent of an estimated 2.5 million airline
passengers a year in the airport's market area fly out of the local
airport. About 20 percent, including many international travelers, use
the Chicago airport, about 12.5 percent fly from Milwaukee and the rest
use other airports like Rockford or Minneapolis.
The Dane County airport's market area includes about 845,000 people
living south to the Illinois border, west to Mineral Point and Muscoda,
north to Oxford and Princeton and east to Beaver Dam and Fort Atkinson.
Livingston said the competing airports offer more choices to airline
passengers. Chicago has 917,000 seats on 8,639 flights a week to all of
the nation's top 25 destinations. Milwaukee has 100,965 seats on 1,521
flights a week to 17 of the top destinations. Dane County has 23,621
seats on 354 flights a week to five of the top destinations.
That's why of 115,142 people who flew to Orlando, Fla., last year from
the Dane County airport's market area, just 59,024 or 51.3 percent flew
from the Madison airport. Orlando was the airport's most popular
Destinations with the best retention rates from Madison are San
Francisco (83.9 percent), Boston (82.3 percent) and Washington, D.C.
(81.1 percent) - all cities without nonstop flights. Livingston said
Madison fares have been competitive with Milwaukee and Chicago to these
"Price is such an important part of the individual traveler's decision,"
Northwest Airlines has 50.8 percent of the Dane County airport's market
share, United Air Lines (including United Express) has 25.4 percent,
American has 11.4 percent, Midwest Express has 4.2 percent, ATA has 2.6
percent and other airlines have the rest.
Some smaller cities offer revenue guarantees to airlines so they'll
continue to offer flights to certain destinations. Peoria, Ill., for
example, offers more than $500,000 in revenue guarantees to Allegiant
Air to offer flights to Las Vegas. Beaumont, Texas, offers a $975,000
revenue guarantee to Delta Air Lines to offer flights to Dallas.
Rockford, Ill., got nonstop charter service to Las Vegas and Orlando by
offering a $500,000 revenue guarantee to Trans Meridian Airlines. <
Livingston said he doesn't endorse revenue guarantees, although the
airport has applied for a grant from the state Department of
Transportation's small community air service development program to
improve air service.
But he said a travel bank, where businesses could buy seats in advance,
could be an alternative to revenue guarantees. Eugene, Ore., for
example, has a $560,000 travel bank for Delta flights to Salt Lake City,
but also offers the airline a $400,000 revenue guarantee on the route.
"That's definitely an ingredient that could be packaged to assist in new
route development," Livingston said.
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