With last year’s departure of the Dayton International Airport’s Director of Aviation Terry Slaybaugh, we are again searching for the top leadership at our region’s airport.
Our airport (DAY) has gone through many changes over my years at the chamber of commerce. Not only have I worked with at least five aviation directors (one twice) since 1994, but there have been numerous physical changes and varied airlines serving Dayton. The consolidation in the airline industry has left us nationally with four (4) huge domestic carriers, who control the majority of flights and passengers nationwide, and a few smaller point-to-point airlines that serve our airport and others around the state. Competition has changed dramatically.
Physically, the airport looks great. The recent remodeling of the ticketing and baggage areas look very modern, clean and efficient. The addition of the parking garage and movement of the rental car area seem to work well. We have a very attractive airport for our market size.
But where we need the most help is in attracting additional seats and/or added destinations or the addition of domestic, low-cost carriers that will improve our access and drive more competition that will affect the pricing of our trips to or from Dayton.
Everyone who works in the economic-development arena knows how important a successful airport can be in attracting and retaining businesses and their employees. Dayton is no different than any city or region in understanding how important transportation infrastructure is for our productivity and image. We must focus much more attention on the attraction of more airlines to DAY.
Over the years, a number of key studies have been completed that show how large our catchment area is in a 75-mile radius of the airport. It’s actually larger than Cincinnati’s or Columbus’ because we “catch” so much of their population better than they do in reverse. We have used that data, along with lower operating costs and the flyer-friendly ease of our airport (Easy to and Through) to sell DAY to others. Yet the airlines don’t always see or listen to what’s best for them … and certainly not what’s always best for our community.
Still, we are blessed with some travel options and are fortunate to have the PSA Airlines headquartered at DAY. However, we need and deserve more.
I will always be a supporter of my home airport and be the best advocate I can be for its continued use and success. But as we look to choose the next airport director, we must understand that his or her focus and expertise must be in negotiating the allure and placement of additional destination seats, whether they be expanding our current partner’s capacity or adding new and different airlines to the mix. Bottom line is we need more seats and destinations.
The most important thing for us all to remember is this …we have a great regional asset that we must not let go the way of Toledo or Akron. Let’s support DAY every chance we get and give our leaders the ammunition they need to attract additional service for our region, whether that be for business or pleasure.
Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE
President and CEO
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce