Economics and customer demand creates a growing market for regional bridges
According to a number of bridge manufacturers, as more passengers experience the comfort of regional jets, the level of service they demand has become higher, creating a new and growing demand for regional boarding bridges.
By Jordanna Smida, assistant editor
As passenger numbers increase, more airlines are offering service in smaller aircraft which fly faster and longer distances than the turboprop, explains Jackie Pothier, director of business development for DEW Engineering.
Economics is just part of the equation though. Another factor playing a large part in the market's growth is the customer's demand for airlines to provide a higher level of service.
It all comes down to passenger comfort, states Martina Nash, internal sales manager for Thyssen Stearns Inc. "Commuter passengers have come to expect the same comfort as passengers boarding from major terminals. The demand to the airport is to accommodate all passengers with a safe and pleasant boarding experience," she says.
Tim Roberts, vice president of sales and marketing for FMC Jetway, agrees with Nash referring to the market's growth as a revolution. "I think the late ’90s has been an era of differentiating yourself by customer service and passenger comfort. People finally got around to saying this is worthwhile ... the base drive is in the advent of affordable, cost-effective regional jets."
Not only has customer service instigated the market's growth, but safety has also played a large roll. Susan Brown, marketing manager of airport systems for DEW Engineering, says the regional boarding bridge removes a number of liabilities from the equation. "Passengers are not subjected to apron dangers or weather conditions," she says. Brown also notes that bridging regional aircraft allows disabled passengers to be loaded easily and provides easy access for the elderly.
"The whole focus of the regional bridge was to provide a safe, comfortable environment which has barrier-free access for wheelchairs and all passengers to board commuters..." states Pothier.
In addressing the growing market, Brown says, "For airports it's also a selling point because they attract more carriers if they can offer them a bridge service."
However, even though the need currently exists for regional bridges, some airlines or airports may be waiting a while. Pothier explains that there are quite a few projects in the market and the money is available, but AIP funding issues have held up development. "Everybody is starting to build," she says. "The regional airlines are saying we want to take the extra step and give the extra level of passenger service ... they're ready to buy bridges, but they have to wait to get the funding approved," she states.