Airport survey: We like it as it is

June 14, 2007

Lower the airfares. Move some restaurants inside the security checkpoint. Speed up baggage handling. Add more direct flights. Don't change a thing.

With a new airport director coming on board for Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, we asked folks to tell us in an on-line survey what they'd like to see at the state's busiest airport. And more than 1,100 responded.

The airport has plenty of fans. Eighty-nine percent of those who answered the survey said Manchester's is their favorite airport, compared with just more than 8 percent who favored Boston's Logan Airport.

About 69 percent of respondents would keep the airport at its current size, while 29 percent want to make it larger. Only 17 people said they would prefer the airport smaller.

But folks want more direct flights. Asked what the airport needs, most -- 40 percent -- chose "flights to more U.S. cites."

Al Tardif of Berlin said he always checks Manchester flights first, but often ends up flying out of Logan because of the additional flights. "Layovers can be and often are problematic with lost luggage and delays," he wrote.

Nine percent of survey respondents wanted "more international flights," the same rate that chose "better highway access."

Meanwhile, 126 respondents, nearly 11 percent of respondents, said "don't change anything."

The convenience seems to be the biggest draw.

"Of all the airports nationwide, Manchester consistently shines," wrote Patty Novia of Derry. "Security is painless, flights are rarely delayed and the parking shuttle is dependable."

"I know people who drive all the way from Boston to fly out of Manchester Airport because the service is superior, the prices are lower, the airlines usually stay on schedule and Logan is terrible," wrote Douglas Lidstone of Manchester.

But he was among several who complained about last year's name change and urged the new director to lose the "Boston" moniker: "We live in New Hampshire, remember? Live Free or Die."

Joe Kenick III of Stratham said he works in Boston but still flies out of Manchester whenever possible because it's closer, less crowded and the security checks are faster than at Logan. "So long as the fares are relatively the same, I much prefer Manchester," he said.

But many complained that it's getting too expensive to fly out of Manchester.

Jean Lawler of Londonderry said she prefers Manchester, but often uses Logan because of the lack of direct flights locally. "Also the prices for connecting flights is often much higher than for direct flights from Logan."

Many complained about the smaller jets that fly out of Manchester. "A few years ago, millions of taxpayer dollars were spent lengthening the runways at MHT, supposedly to allow for larger aircraft which would fly to farther destinations. So where's the payoff?" asked Scott Dommin of Bedford.

Jeff Underhill of Bow offered this analysis: "With the major airlines cutting back capacity, forcing passengers into crammed regional jets, and then connecting them at unreliable and over-congested airports like Philadelphia, they have made nonstops on larger aircraft out of Boston's Logan Airport more attractive. However, supporting flights at Boston only causes the airlines to cut back more at Manchester, so I do everything I can to support the airlines that give Manchester quality service."

The baggage system also drew some criticism. "The baggage handling has become as poor as Boston the last few years -- and Boston is the worst in the country," wrote John Dooney of Derry.

Valerie Lewis of Nashua asked, "Service is great, mix of airlines and schedules just right . . . but why in the world does it take so long to collong to collect baggage???"

Some warned not to make the airport too large.

"My largest concern is that Manchester is going to get greedy and complacent," wrote Robert Soucy of Laconia. "Do not make the Logan mistake."

He suggested creating a user advisory board, "just a listening panel to give some comments to the normal everyday usage of the airport."

Michael Power of Portsmouth said Manchester is his favorite airport:

"Right size, good service, good parking. I realize it will continue to grow and will only get busier, but in the meantime, Kevin Dillon ought to be remembered as an outstanding airport director."

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