Benet Wilson writes that Chicago Rockford International Airport, an airport on Chicago’s far western fringe with limited commercial service, is going to partner with a charter airline (actually, a brand — Southern Skyways) to offer scheduled services to Denver and Detroit, the former to replace service United is withdrawing this summer. Rockford will control routes, destinations, and fares, and will eat the losses. As Benet points out, this is a bad idea.
Regular airlines are struggling, and low-performing routes are getting cut. If Rockford can’t supply enough traffic to Denver when the route is a regional jet and has interline connections, how will it generate sufficient traffic with a larger plane and no connecting opportunities? Well, it will operate less frequently — a few times a week. Says the airport’s director: “You’ll see as many flights as you can fill.” That’s just the problem — there will be so few flights that being unable to fill them will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Rockford says it’s doing this to prove what a good market it is to other airlines. Yes, it’s such a good market that United is leaving. The trouble with the fund-your-own-airline-service strategy is that Rockford is creating a different type of service than it’s trying to replace or recruit. It’s best to get connecting service to major hubs — the airport is already served to cheapo leisure markets by Allegiant. But the Southern Skyways service won’t resemble the connecting hub service the airport claims to need: the aircraft types and sizes, schedules, and traffic feeds will be completely different.
Rockford’s taken a bad idea too far. There are better ways of recruiting airline service.
Rockford Airport Gets into the Airline Business [Towers and Tarmacs]