EDITORIAL: Duluth air travel soars with product, price and property

July 23, 2007

Jul. 20--How tickled Allegiant Air and Midwest Airlines must be about their decisions to serve Duluth.

The Twin Ports market certainly has shown how pleased area residents are that the new air service is here. Passenger traffic is on pace to break the all-time record at Duluth International Airport. More than 160,000 travelers flew into or out of Duluth during the first six months of 2007. That's 9.4 percent more traffic than during the airport's record year of 2004.

What's driving the traffic increase? It's economics 101: product and price. The new products are Allegiant's flights to Las Vegas and Midwest's to Milwaukee and points beyond. The number of nonstop destinations, with connections to anywhere, has doubled from the Twin Cities and Detroit direct service offered by Northwest Airlines.

The price difference stems from the competition to Northwest, which significantly lowered its fares when the new kids came to town. Travelers responded, much as they did in 2004, when Northwest last faced competition in the market during American Eagle's brief local foray with nonstop flights to Chicago.

And to product and price, add another "P": property. Another part of the equation is Duluth International Airport itself. Millions of dollars in government aid and grants have been lined up and are being used to remodel the terminal, improve the airport's runway, add a new walkway for passengers and to make other improvements.

After years of less-than- adequate service, Twin Ports air travelers now have plenty of options. But it's up to them to preserve the newfound abundance of choices by continuing to fill the seats. The numbers prove it can be done, and that it is being done.

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