It is possible to move commercial airline service from Mobile Regional Airport to Brookley, according to a feasibility study released by the Mobile Airport Authority Wednesday morning.
Among other things, the Mobile Metropolitan Airport System Study found that it would be more cost effective to move commercial service to the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley than to increase access through infrastructure at Bates Field in West Mobile, MAA Executive Director Chris Curry said at a press conference. The study also pointed to a number of other positive factors, including Brookley being “geographically better positioned to attract additional air service due to its proximity to downtown and ability to attract a larger share of the airport’s catchment area.”
Curry told reporters the current regional airport attracts just 53 percent of its catchment area, which includes regions about an hour to the north and 30 to 40 minutes to the east and west. A move downtown, Curry said, would also open the airport closer to 138,000 potential customers.
He mentioned a number of discount airline carriers, including Via Airlines, had shown interest in the move. The thinking is that more carriers would increase competition and thus lower prices. However, when pressed about his confidence level that a move would lead to more discount carriers, Curry was more cautious.
“In this business, there are no guarantees, but the way we’re approaching it is good,” he said. “We’re going to start with Via And expand from there.”
More details about the future of the airport could be revealed in a master plan, which will be the next step in the process. Curry did confirm that MAA would move forward with renovating a current building at Brookley to be used as a terminal for Via!. Plans from there could include a second terminal for more traditional, legacy airlines at the site, Curry said.
As for funding of the next phases of development, Curry seems confident that a number of options remain available, including airport improvement money from the Federal Aviation Administration. Local MAA money could be used as well, he said.
As for the future of the regional airport, Curry said the duties of both airports would essentially switch, meaning Bates Field would become a general aviation airport. He also hinted that both airports could be used for commercial service. The timetable for a move would be three to five years, he said.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said in a statement he supports the future move.
“This study reveals what many of us already knew. Not only is there communitywide support for moving the airport to Brookley, but carriers prefer it too,” he said. “Proof of this is the recent announcement that Via Airlines has agreed to fly direct flights to Orlando out of Brookley once a terminal is built. By moving the airport, we can recapture the market we have lost to Pensacola and other nearby airports.
“I applaud the leadership of the Mobile Airport Authority and their willingness to challenge the status quo,” he added. “We are one step closer towards creating a vibrant downtown airport with easy access and affordable flights to great destinations.”
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