Feb. 24--Harrisburg International Airport officials must use all the tools at their disposal -- their in-house marketing department, their connections with local officials, their relationships with existing airlines -- to ensure American Airlines' merger with US Airways doesn't lead to a drop in service.
Currently, US Airways connects passengers from the airport to its hub in Philadelphia. That route is especially appealing to Central Pennsylvania residents because security lines are far shorter at HIA than at other nearby airports, such as Baltimore and Washington-Dulles, and the flight time to Philly is negligible. (In many cases, it's easier and quicker to park in Harrisburg, board a US Airways plane to Philly and then connect to your destination flight than it is to drive to Philly and board from there.) It's no surprise US Airways is the top carrier out of Harrisburg.
American Airlines passengers are flown to that air carrier's hub at Chicago-O'Hare. From there, passengers can connect to countless flights within American's network.
With airline mergers typically come loss in service at airports that contained the two original carriers. We hope HIA officials will do everything in their power to ensure that doesn't happen here.
Both connections -- Philly and O'Hare -- are crucial links for the region's business community. Since approval of the airlines' merger still is months away, routes likely won't change anytime soon. But the threat exists, and airports at the forefront of efforts to retain service likely will prove the most successful. Every airport with a route map providing service from both carriers will be weighing their options, and HIA must be out in front of its competition.
Harrisburg is the state's third-largest airport, and Cumberland and Dauphin counties are fortunate to be served by such vibrant service. Many cities larger than Harrisburg are served by smaller airports with fewer carriers. It's a regional asset that must be protected.
The fate of robust air service in a post-US Airways world (the merged airline will retain the American name) is being decided at airports across the country right now. Officials at HIA must act to make sure they're acting, as well.
Copyright 2013 - The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa.
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