BGSU team studies impact of airline industry changes on airports, communities

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Like many smaller and non-hub airports across the country, Toledo Express Airport has been seriously and negatively affected by the dramatic changes the airline industry has undergone over the last decade.

When airports are sidelined, not only are passengers inconvenienced, whole communities feel the economic impact as jobs and ancillary services are lost and companies reconsider their decisions to locate or remain in the area.

BGSU has been selected as a partner in a project designed to study the effects of airline industry changes on these smaller and non-hub airports and their communities and develop strategies for attracting or retaining air service. BGSU is working on a team led by GRA Inc., an air transportation-industry economic and policy consulting firm, and with Strategic Partners and Associates, which works in air service development.  

Dr. Russell Mills, an assistant professor of political science specializing in public administration, is leading BGSU’s portion of the project, which is funded by a $300,000, 18-month grant from theFederal Aviation Administration (FAA)-funded Airport Cooperative Research Program. Before joining the University, Mills was a policy analyst with the FAA.

Also on the BGSU team are Dr. Michael Carroll, director of the Center for Regional Development, and Will Burns, assistant director of the center. The center has worked on airport issues before, notably in a runway project at the NASA Plumbrook site in Sandusky, Ohio.

Rounding out the team are graduate assistant Amanda Johnson, a student in the Master of Public Administration program, and undergraduate Kasie Durkit, a political science, history and women’s studies major.

“Airlines and airports have been impacted by a range of things, from the sharp increase in the price of fuel to airline consolidation, fleet realignment and other factors,” Mills said. “Airport managers have tried a variety of strategies to attract airlines.”

BGSU’s part of the project involves creating case studies of 10-12 communities around the U.S. (including Toledo) that have experienced the fallout from the airline industry’s changes.

The team is also conducting intensive focus groups in four regionally diverse communities, interviewing airport managers, economic development representatives, business leaders and civic and elected officials to see how their communities have been affected, what strategies they have employed to attract airlines to their airports, and determine what has worked and what has not.

The BGSU team recently attended a national airports conference in Nashville and conducted interviews of airport managers who were in attendance.

“What works in one community may not work at all in another,” Carroll said. “We found people who had opposite experiences with similar strategies.”

A portion of the study will look at differences among communities to see which practices might work in which environments and if there are best practices that are transferrable, Carroll said. “We’ll also look at statewide initiatives that have been tried and whether they were successful.”

“This is very applied research,” Mills said. “It will be published as a guidebook that can be used by everyone in the airport industry and their communities. As one part of the grant, we’ll present our findings at a number of conferences and to airport managers.”

Updated: 12/02/2017 12:56AM