Sept. 12--ALBANY -- JetBlue is here. So is American. Nearly a dozen airlines, representatives from 34 airports, and at least one aircraft manufacturer are in Albany this week to participate in a three-day conference that will look at everything from future air routes to making social media work for airports.
While three quarters of the airports represented are from east of the Mississippi, airports in Tucson, Bakersfield and Burbank also sent representatives to meet with carriers.
"It's a way for airports to sit down and update an airline on changes in the market," said Mark Sixel, president of Eugene, Oregon-based Sixel Consulting Group, which along with Albany International Airport is hosting the 2013 Eastern Airports Conference. The event is being held at the Hilton Albany.
Sixel said attendees were "pleasantly surprised" by what they found in Albany, although it wasn't clear whether airlines such as JetBlue might want to start flying here.
And while smaller communities have complained about losing service as carriers consolidate and downsize, Sixel said it's the "big-city pairs" that have seen the bulk of capacity reductions.
In Albany, business and airport officials have been working to attract new service that would serve the growing technology sector here. They're trying to convince carriers to serve such cities as Houston, Dallas or Denver.
Meanwhile, regional carriers are taking over more service from their mainline partners. And the regionals have begun replacing their 50-seat jetliners with larger aircraft.
"The days (of 50-seat jets) are numbered," Sixel said. "They haven't built a new one in several years."
Larger, 70-seat and 90-seat jet aircraft with more efficient designs and engines are replacing them.
Larger turboprop aircraft also are back in vogue, with everything from Bombardier's Q400 with 70 or more seats to new models from French plane manufacturer ATR.
ATR was at the Albany conference to talk with participating airlines, which included a number of regional carriers.
The new turboprops "are even more fuel-efficient than the jets they're replacing," Sixel said.
The conference, which concludes Thursday, has exposed a number of new airlines to the Capital Region.
"What's really important for a community like Albany," Sixel said, "is 11 airlines had to come here."
Copyright 2013 - Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
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