Posts Tagged ‘prestige’

In 2004, US Airways downgraded its operations at Pittsburgh International Airport from hub to focus city status, taking with it half its flights and leaving swathes of terminal unused. Scott McCartney relates the story of what happened next: fares fell through the floor and low-cost carriers rushed in to take advantage of the situation. For a season, Pittsburgh mourned the loss of its hub and especially its prestigious transatlantic service to London and Frankfurt. But the Allegheny County Airport Authority takes a realistic view about luring back transatlantic service: “We have to depend on our market, and that may only be able to support international flights seven or eight months out of the year.”

Now, Things with Wings reports, US Airways is cutting back even more. Rather than respond with histrionics, the airport authority is welcoming the opportunity to get more flights from low-cost carriers. Moreover, according to a quotation over at Towers and Tarmacs, Pittsburgh is deploying incentives strategically: “We don’t rely just on the incentives. Any airline will tell you that if a market is not there, incentives will not work. The incentives are more a way to help increase brand awareness by telling passengers that there’s not just one carrier at Pittsburgh. At one point, 87% of our flights used to be with US Airways.”

The lesson Pittsburgh has taken to heart–that hub closure is not necessarily a long-term loss–is one for several other airports intent on remaining captive to high fares at their fortress hubs.

More US Airways Cuts Coming to Pittsburgh? [Things with Wings]
Pittsburgh Continues Efforts on Airline Diversity [Towers and Tarmacs]

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Evan’s Bookshelf: Dark Side of the Moon

For the past week I’ve been reading Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest, an engaging revisionist history of the manned space program by Gerard J. DeGroot. DeGroot’s main argument is that while the development of space technology like satellites, planetary probes, and space telescopes has been useful and productive for humanity, the manned space program was a colossal waste of money driven by several factors: misinformed anticommunism (we were actually way ahead in the “space race,” even though the Soviets hit most of the “first” milestones), military-industrial interests (lots of jobs at McDonnell, Grumman, and Northrop emerged from the space race, not to mention the massive civilian growth of NASA), flights of fancy (the space-travel fantasies of boosters–no pun intended–like Wernher von Braun), and finally, a desire for prestige.

The moon shot was the great pinnacle of the prestige drive. DeGroot documents over and over how genuine scientific interests were neglected in the pursuit of the immensely complicated task of sending a man to the moon and bringing him back. “As Johnson had outlined in his memo, the main reason to go to the Moon, or indeed to do anything in space, was prestige,” DeGroot writes. “Americans feared that Soviet space exploits would damage the reputation of the United States and cause countries around the world to go communist.” He quotes numerous officials and journalists of the day making explicit the role of prestige in the manned space program.

He also quotes persuasive critics of this government-run prestige program (more…)

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Make no mistake: Salt Lake City has bought Paris service. Per my post a few days ago, state and local authorities have ponied up $1.9 million in incentives and subsidies, and Delta has rewarded their “investment” with nonstop service to Charles de Gaulle. “There is something different about a state and a city that has direct links across the Atlantic and across the Pacific,” said Utah governor Jon Huntsman. “It is a huge deal.” What keeps people thinking that their cities’ reputations and growth depend on the magic transoceanic flight? The price of prestige: $1.9 million.

It’s official: Delta gives Utah its first trans-Atlantic route [Today in the Sky]

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Salt Lake City, like Cleveland, is playing the prestige game. It wants flights to Europe–Paris, in particular. And it’s going to pay for them. But does Salt Lake need flights to Europe? That’s not clear. What is clear is that Salt Lake has irrational hub-loss fear, and that often goes along with the sort of civic boosterism that sees no problem in throwing money at a service that would be otherwise a market loser:

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce has pushed hard for a route to Europe.

“The chance of a direct flight to Europe would plant the seeds for many of the aspirations that we have for the business community, namely, to become a world city,” chamber spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour said.

I hope Utahns are satisfied with paying for Salt Lake’s “aspirations.”

Utah approves $250,000 for Delta flights to Europe [AP, via Today in the Sky]

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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.

Airport check-in: Cleveland: More direct flights wanted [USA Today]

See also: Why having a hub is not that big a deal.

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