OKC Airport May Add Nonstop Flights

Jan. 26--Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport could be well-positioned to get more nonstop flights to popular destinations in the next few years, according to industry consultants.

Hired by the airport trust to work on increasing nonstop service to Will Rogers, the Campbell-Hill Aviation Group found that travelers flying out of Oklahoma City are paying more for their tickets and traveling farther. When passengers fly a greater distance at higher fares, an airline's per mile revenue increases.

"An airline doesn't want to come to a market where they can't make money," said Kevin Schorr, vice president of Campbell-Hill Aviation Group. "Traffic is up, fares are up, the average distance people travel is up. People are responding to the new service and paying higher fares to do so."

And that's the message the Alexandria, Va.-based consulting group will take to airline executives in presentations to try to persuade them to add service in Oklahoma City.

The company has a two-year contract -- not to exceed $120,000 -- to help the airport increase air service to markets that are in demand but not adequately served by airlines.

One market airport officials are targeting is the Los Angeles area. Roughly 218 people a day fly from Oklahoma City to the Los Angeles area, and the same number fly into Oklahoma City from Los Angeles.

Adding flights heading east also would make sense at Will Rogers, the study found. About 185 passengers are traveling between Oklahoma City and the Baltimore and Washington area each way every day, the aviation group's study found. Flights from Oklahoma City to the San Francisco Bay area also are seeing passenger interest at both ends. The study showed that 106 passengers are coming and going each way per day.

Airport spokeswoman Karen Carney said Oklahoma City also is an underserved market in Los Angeles and the Washington area, which could help the case to get nonstop service to those locations.

Oklahoma City is sixth on a list of popular destinations without adequate service from airports in Los Angeles. In the Washington area, Oklahoma City is fourth on the list of underserved markets.

"It helps us because it shows there is need on both ends," Carney said.

But as airlines struggle in bankruptcy or fight to keep profits while facing high fuel prices, adding jet service may not be a priority, Schorr said.

"There's no question that several of the largest carriers are now bankrupt. They have greater things to focus on than adding service," Schorr said. "Then there are others out there like Jet Blue, Air Tran and Virgin that are being courted by every airport out there, and I think we can make a great case."

Will Rogers' $110 million makeover and increasing passenger counts are selling points for airlines looking to come to Oklahoma City. Increased business and developments in downtown Oklahoma City also help, Schorr said.

In the last year, new service has been added from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas, Orlando and Phoenix. Will Rogers World Airport has 76 daily flights to 18 destinations, and service to New Orleans and San Antonio is expected to begin in February.

Campbell-Hill has done work to increase air service in Reno, Nev.; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Hartford, Conn.