The director of Buffalo’s transportation authority suggests a transatlantic flight is only a matter of time because “big eastern airports are encountering more congestion, and European carriers are considering midsize U.S. airports like Buffalo.”
The argument is that if Newburgh-Stewart airport in New York and Hartford, Connecticut can support transatlantic flights then they can too.
- But Norwegian calls Stewart ‘New York’-Stewart. They’ve chosen it as a low cost and uncongested airport within reach of the New York City metropolitan area. The comparable pre-existing size of the airport’s traffic wasn’t the draw or justification for transatlantic service (and it’s by no means a foregone conclusion that the gamble will work).
- And Connecticut has the highest per capita income in the U.S. Yet Aer Lingus needed subsidies in the form of “$9 million in revenue guarantees over two years..along with a $3.6 million marketing program over the next three years” in order to start service.
Here are the 5 largest employers in the greater Buffalo area. Note that only one employs 10,000 people, and none are largely focused on the European market.
Until recently my home of Austin was marginal for transatlantic service. British Airways came in and offered a Boeing 787 flight, it was the perfect example of what the 787 was made for. And BA has a strong partner in the city in American Airlines. The service did well enough that it’s been upgauged much of the year to a Boeing 777. Condor came in and offered non-daily flights to Frankfurt, and Norwegian has announced London service as well.
That’s all within the past 3 years. And Austin is home to Dell, Whole Foods, and the University of Texas at Austin. Apple, IBM, and Samsung all have over 6000 employees in Austin. Accenture, Amazon, and AT&T are major employers in the area. And it’s the capital of Texas. And it’s been marginal to support transatlantic flights.
Granted Buffalo is geographically better-positioned for smaller aircraft to Europe. But the city’s population peaked in 1950. Per capita income is about 30% below that of the New York City area.
Steel production at Bethlehem Steel on the shores of Lake Erie, 1973, source: EPA via Wikimedia Commons
And Buffalo airport is a two hour drive from Toronto’s Pearson and less than an hour in the air to Philadelphia, Boston, New York JFK and Newark.
Somehow Buffalo thinks their proximity to other major population centers helps their cause.
[The airport’s marketing manager will] often display a nighttime photo of Western New York and Southern Ontario taken from space depicting a thick concentration of lights stretching from Toronto to Buffalo.
That image represents millions of potential airline customers.
“We have to think internationally,” Vanecek said. “And we can because the Canadians are a big part of this.”
When the Canadian dollar was stronger, and the US border friendlier, more Canadians crossed into the US to find cheap fares out of Buffalo. But even that’s dried up.
The number of people flying out of Buffalo’s airport has been on a long-term decline.
San Antonio, Indianapolis, Columbus, Milwaukee, West Palm Beach, and Jacksonville, Florida are all busier airports than Buffalo (although in fairness Western Europe is within range for a Buffalo 737 MAX 9 or 10, whereas these other airports are not in standard configuration).
But what about the other side of the market? Europeans want to fly to Toronto and want to fly to New York. Buffalo simply is neither a business nor leisure market for them. Carriers would be relying largely on the local Buffalo market. And the striking thing about the airport’s case for transatlantic service is that they seem to mention everything other than the number of people in Buffalo flying to Europe.
(HT: Airline Writer)