January 8, 2019 10:52:55 AM
Flight delays aren't frequent at Golden Triangle Regional Airport, where the on-time rate of 87 percent exceeds the industry average of 82 percent.
But delays do happen. It's what often happens next that helps tell the story of GTRA's success.
In 2018, for the second straight year, passenger travel has increased, even though the number of commercial flights, which constitute 92 percent of the airport's passenger service, has not.
"We had a delay a while back due to an equipment issue, so we took down a tray of sandwiches for the people waiting for the flight," GTRA director Mike Hainsey said. "It wasn't a big deal: just a tray of sandwiches, but you should have seen their reaction. They were really happy."
Big deal or no, this never happens at La Guardia or O'Hare or Hartsfield.
Those small touches, what Hainsey calls a "hometown feel," are what help GTRA maintain its status as the state's third-largest regional airport.
While other regional airports struggle to remain viable, GTRA is growing.
In fact, a new 5,000 square foot addition to the airport terminal is revealing in what it says about the airport's future.
"It has a concrete roof," Hainsey said. "We did that because we anticipate more growth and we've reached the point where the only way to go is up."
There are many factors that play a prominent role in the success of the airport. While it's still more expensive to fly out of GTRA -- on average about $110 dollars more, Hainsey said -- the cost of time and travel to Birmingham and the conveniences associated with flying out of a comparably smaller airport are making GTRA a viable option.
Without question, though, the healthy base-line that supports GTRA is business travel, which accounts for 80 percent of passenger traffic. While no new sizable industries have arrived in the past couple of years, many are growing and adding employees, which means more travel. The symbiotic relationship between the airport and industry is at the heart of the airport's success. Having an airport that offers service to global connections appeals to industry -- it's a selling point for industry recruitment. Likewise, industry provides the airport with a reliable customer base.
The benefits of that relationship extend to regular folks for whom GTRA is a travel option that people in other areas simply don't have.
By that standard, the success of GTRA is a success for us all.