Columbus Municipal Airport officials are exploring whether commercial airline service is feasible in the city.
The airport plans to compile results of a feasibility study into a report that is expected to be released in January. Officials closed a month-long survey earlier this week that asked members of the public whether they would be interested in commercial airline service for business or leisure purposes. The survey also asked respondents what airports they typically use to travel.
If the airport and the community find that commercial air service is feasible, the next step would be to see how many Columbus residents fly out of airports in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville, airport director Brian Payne said.
Payne said Detroit is one possible city the Columbus Municipal Airport could provide commercial air travel to, due to the availability of time slots.
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“We know as an automotive city, a lot of businesses here are sending people to Detroit quite commonly,” Payne said.
Commercial air service to Detroit was launched in November 2011, with direct flights between Columbus Municipal Airport and Willow Run Airport west of Detroit — available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Service was discontinued after about a year, however, when there wasn’t enough interest to make it financially feasible, Payne said.
The focus at the time appeared to center on two of the city’s largest automotive suppliers — Cummins and Faurecia — and wasn’t marketed effectively to other businesses in the Columbus area, Payne said.
Jason Hester, president of the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp., said he thinks having commercial air service in place would be a good move.
More than half of the top 25 manufacturing employers in the Columbus area are automotive suppliers, and many of them already have established relationships in the Detroit area, Hester said.
“We do know there are local employers that routinely and regularly travel to Detroit,” Hester said.
If the airport were able to attract commercial flights out of Columbus, it would be another tool to help market the community, he said.
Cindy Frey, president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, said she agrees that implementing commercial air service out of Columbus would be beneficial.
Anything that helps local businesses be connected with their customers or suppliers is a plus, Frey said.
The survey was developed as part of work done by airport intern Rody Boef, who is studying aviation management at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Payne said.
The airport received more than 400 survey responses and also reached out to individuals around the airport through direct-mailing efforts to get their thoughts on commercial air service.
Costs tied to security-screening measures and other regulations with the federal Transportation Security Administration would need to be explored before making a decision, Payne said.
Such details will be evaluated as part of Boef’s overall analysis, Payne said.
“At the end of the day, you’re talking maybe one or two additional flights a day,” Payne said. “It’s very minimal from an operations standpoint.”
A report detailing the possibility of commercial airline service at the Columbus Municipal Airport based on survey results will be compiled. That report is expected to be completed in January.