Second-tier cities in the United States often have self-esteem problems. They (that is, the boosters, chambers of commerce, and city fathers–the average citizen doesn’t much care) persuade themselves that if only they had X, Y, or Z, they would have more prestige. This is what persuades cities to drop hundreds of millions of dollars into sports stadiums, and also what persuades cities to make irrational policy decisions about air travel.
Cleveland recently gave up its dream of nonstop flights to Asia, currently the sine qua non of aviation prestige. The city had next to no chance of getting such flights: Continental’s hub at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is the airline’s smallest, and its only other transoceanic flights are seasonal routes to London and Paris. But a girl can dream, so Cleveland had planned to spend up to $54 million on extending a runway to attract these not-so-forthcoming flights. When expenses soared, Cleveland wisely put the prestige project on ice.
But Cleveland is at it again, offering (the article humorously refers to it as “investing”) $3.5 million in subsidies and waived landing fees to airlines who launch new service to Hopkins, especially in “the West and South and international destinations.” Ah, those favored “international destinations.” There go the city leaders again, trying to pay for prestige with public money.
See also: Why having a hub is not that big a deal.