Mitchell International Airport Director Bateman to Retire

Feb. 13--Barry Bateman, director of Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport for more than three decades, is retiring, the County Executive's office announced Thursday.

"Barry's influence extends well beyond Milwaukee. He has been a leader in the aviation industry and a respected voice among airport executives nationally," said Todd Hauptli, president and CEO of the American Association of Airport Executives, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade association.

"To say he will be missed is an understatement given the critical role he has played shaping national policy over the years and serving in key roles with our organization and others."

Bateman was not available for comment, a Mitchell spokesman said.

"In his 31 years as the airport director for Milwaukee County, Barry's accomplishments are extraordinary and extensive," County Executive Chris Abele said in a statement.

Bateman has overseen the airport during boom times when Milwaukee was an airline hub, flights were fairly plentiful and airfares were relatively cheap.

Then the airlines were forced by economics to change their business model. They reduced service so that the number of available seats was more in line with demand.

Consolidation began to take over the industry. At the beginning of this century, 10 airlines accounted for slightly more than 90% of available capacity in the United States, according to the Department of Transportation. By 2014, four airlines -- Southwest, Delta, American and United -- control about 85% of the domestic passenger market. All four serve Milwaukee.

As the industry shrunk, so did the number of passengers at Mitchell. By 2012, the annual number of passengers at Mitchell was about 7 million, reflecting the elimination of Milwaukee as a hub airport.

When Bateman started at the airport, the number of passengers it served was about 3 million, Abele said.

Southwest has become the market share leader at Mitchell, having grown steadily since arriving here in 2009 and by virtue of its purchase of AirTran Airways.

"Over the last several years, we've been able to grow our operation to become the largest carrier at the airport, and we could not have done it without the support of Mr. Bateman and his team," Southwest spokesman Dan Landson said in an email.

Jay Sorensen, who runs the IdeaWorks airline industry consultancy business in Shorewood, said Bateman's tenure has been marked by consistency.

"I think he has done an exceptional job," Sorensen said.

The airport is seen as an efficient and non-extravagant operation, reflecting the community it serves in many ways, Sorensen said.

Before Mitchell, Bateman served in positions at Las Vegas McCarran International and Lexington (Ky.) Bluegrass airports, with 41 total years in airport management.

Bateman's last day is April 18. Deputy Airport Director Terry Blue will take over as interim director upon Bateman's retirement.

Milwaukee County, which operates Mitchell, is launching a national search to replace Bateman, Abele said.

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