Sky’s the limit for air­por t growth?

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - OPINION -

The Wilkes-Barre Scran­ton In­ter­na­tional Air­port has ex­pe­ri­enced growth over the last two years for a fun­da­men­tal rea­son — pas­sen­gers have filled planes.

Air­port Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Carl R. Beard­s­ley noted re­cently that “load fac­tors,” the per­cent­age of sold seats per flight, av­er­age about 85 per­cent. Lo­cal trav­el­ers, it seems, have be­gun to con­sider the an­cil­lary costs — tolls, time, fuel and lodg­ing — that go with us­ing other air­ports. And the grow­ing ser­vice at the air­port has helped to cre­ate more com­pet­i­tive fares.

Mean­while, the Lack­awanna and Luzerne county gov­ern­ments that con­trol the air­port should ex­am­ine an in­trigu­ing trend. Euro­pean car­ri­ers have be­gun to es­tab­lish ser­vice at smaller East Coast air­ports to re­duce costs and es­cape the con­ges­tion at ma­jor air­ports.

Aer Lin­gus, the Ir­ish car­rier, be­gan ser­vice last fall be­tween Bradley In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Hart­ford, Con­necti­cut and Shan­non In­ter­na­tional Air­port — a ma­jor Euro­pean gate­way.

And Nor­we­gian, a dis­count car­rier, plans to be­gin ser­vice to Ire­land this year from Ste­wart In­ter­na­tional Air­port in New­burgh, New York, 98 miles from Scran­ton. T.F. Green Air­port, in War­wick, Rhode Is­land, also is in talks with Nor­we­gian.

Be­cause of a new gen­er­a­tion of highly fuel-ef­fi­cient air­craft such as the Boe­ing 737Max and the Air­bus 321Neo, car­ri­ers prof­itably can cover longer distances with fewer pas­sen­gers. The 737Max and 32Neo are sin­gle-aisle, two-en­gine jets that carry be­tween 180 and 220 pas­sen­gers. Larger two-aisle jumbo jets such as the new Boe­ing 787 and Air­bus 350 usu­ally carry at least 100 more pas­sen­gers.

As re­ported by The New York Times, a record 18,000 city pairs were con­nected by di­rect air ser­vice in 2016, a record. Many of them are ma­jor cities, but there has been sub­stan­tial growth among sec­ondary mar­kets.

As the new sec­ondary mar­ket routes be­come es­tab­lished, other car­ri­ers likely will con­sider join­ing the mar­ket. AVP should be ready to at­tract that ser­vice.

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