Sky’s the limit for airpor t growth?
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.