Mature Deregulated Market is Purging Nation’s Nonhub Airports

Rex Hammond, Laszlo Czaban


Qualitative and comparative analyses examine the emergence of new threats to the viability of the nation’s smallest commercial service airports. Dominant airlines that survived the prolonged period of bankruptcies and mergers are concentrating resources in metro and international markets while managing uncertainty by limiting inventory and prioritizing profit. Upgauging aircraft, pilot shortages, historic patterns of passenger migration and consumer switching are exacerbating risk factors to jeopardize airline service to primary nonhub airports. The application of risk factors found in extant research identifies 33 airports facing the greatest danger of losing airline service. Oblivious to the existence of the growing threat, the traveling public is content and responsive to reduced airfares. The growing market and the importance of air service to consumers preclude regulators and politicians from altering the terms of competition defined by deregulation. Interviews with airline and airport professionals confirm that the mature deregulated airline industry is entering a phase of airport consolidation.

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