Photo | Lagniappe
Officials cut the ribbon on the Mobile Downtown Airport at the Brookley Aeroplex.
While excitement still lingers in the air over the recent opening of the city’s new downtown airport, there is one airline that has not taken to the air in quite some time.
Via Air, which offered flights from Mobile Regional Airport to Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida, has not taken off from the Port City since April 14 and the company’s plans going forward, at least locally, seem to be murky at best.
“They’ve canceled all their flights for the foreseeable future,” Mobile Airport Authority (MAA) President Chris Curry said.
Via was the first airline to say it would prefer to use the downtown airport when announcing it would fly out of Mobile in February of last year. Despite this, Curry said Via was never a big part of the downtown airport’s plans.
“They were scheduled to fly out four times per week on 50-seat jets,” Curry said. “So far, Frontier has five flights per week on 186-seat jets. So, Via was a small part of the plan.”
Via’s issues seem to be system-wide, Curry said, as the airline looks to reassess its business model.
“They’ve pulled back on flights out of Austin [Texas], as well as plans in Birmingham,” Curry said. “They’re looking system-wide to re-address what they’re trying to do.”
In the meantime, Curry said the authority is focused on Frontier and possible expansion plans, as well as recruiting more low-cost carriers to the area.
“We never did slow down on our pursuit to get more carriers,” he said.
At the same time, the downtown airport is small, with only two gates. Slow growth and expansion is needed in order to make the best use of the space until the authority can expand the airport into phase two of construction, Curry said.
The authority is excited about what it has seen from Frontier so far, but is working to improve the inbound passengers to Mobile from destinations such as Chicago and Denver.
“We’re working with Visit Mobile to market to destination cities,” he said.
Airport ribbon cutting
The Mobile Downtown Airport has been open a short time, but officials are already discussing expansion plans for the terminal that hosts five Frontier flights per week to Chicago and Denver.
MAA Chairman Elliot Maisel told a crowd at a ribbon-cutting of the organization’s latest facility on Wednesday that once Airbus moves out of the half of the building it used to use as a logistics center on June 30, expansion would be on the table. In addition to expansion, Masiel said the phases of the airport move could include two or three different terminals.
“This is a temporary terminal,” Maisel said. “We’ll have a primary and a main terminal in a few years.”
Maisel also said MAA has already received phone calls from a primary carrier at Mobile Regional Airport inquiring about moving downtown. Maisel said the terminal wasn’t ready yet.
“We’re just getting started,” he told the crowd. “Stay tuned and come support it. We want it to transform the city and we think it can, but you have to support it.”
Maisel was one in a line of speakers asking the public to support the airport by purchasing tickets on flights from Brookley, or BFM, to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Denver International Airport.
“We’ve got to support Frontier in order to see more flights to more destinations,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.
Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Bill Sisson also urged would-be travelers to choose Frontier and the Mobile Downtown Airport.
“The phrase is ‘use it or lose it,’ and we need to use it,” Sisson said. “If we can do that, we’ll get more flights to more destinations, and I think we can.”
The direct flights to Denver, which opens up the West Coast market, and Chicago have already begun to pay dividends within the business and economic development community, Sisson said.
“Having non-stop flights to Denver and Chicago is important for the business community,” Sisson said. “It’s already getting interest for economic development.”
David Clark, Visit Mobile president and CEO, said the new airport has already helped in securing 1,400 hotel room nights from a group out of the midwest that was seeking a location for a convention in 2022.
“No pun intended, but this will give us a major lift in travel and tourism,” Clark said. “It’s a major game changer in travel and tourism.”
The ribbon-cutting also featured the swearing-in of new MAA Police Chief Rod Young, a Theodore native. Young comes to MAA from the Tallahassee Police Department, where he recently retired after more than two decades of service.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).