Capital Region International Airport

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  • Lansing has finally received its aerotropolis designation: Lansing airport lands key designation for aerotropolis

    It ought to be interesting to what kind of affect this designation will have on the area, it seems unclear as to what the aerotropolis is actually supposed to accomplish.
  • The aerotropolis is really just a fancy name for a concentration of office and industrial parks on or near an airport that directly benefit from the airport and rail at the airport. Government coined the term so that it could offer specific tax breaks around and airport. So, you'll get FedEx and UPS facilities, and warehouses for auto parts suppliers and the like.
  • Seems Capital Region International Airport is having difficult times again. Losing Allegiant back in January (Orlando) and now Sun Country in November (DC and Minneapolis). International "fun in the sun" flights sponsored by Apple Vacations appear to be decreasing as well, only Cancun this upcoming winter.

    Sun Country leaving Lansing airport in November

    Thoughts:

    - 4 years ago, the airport was on the upswing, in terms of passenger flights (Apple Vacations and Sun Country offering flights to Cancun, Montego Bay, Vegas, Orlando, Fort Myers, DC, Minneapolis)
    - Sun Country is having labor/financial issues (Google it for more info), and may be downsizing, which may be a contributor to their departure?
    - Airline consolidations have hurt Lansing's airport: Northwest/Delta merger saw elimination of daily flights, Southwest acquisition of Air Tran has made less charter flights available for companies such as Apple Vacations, etc.
    - Delta, in response to Sun Country's Minneapolis flights, greatly increased their own offerings (up to 3 flights/day). I can see Delta now reducing their Minneapolis flights?
    - Air fares - Lansing's airport has a perception/reputation for high fares. It may be warranted, but recent USDOT data suggests it fares are on par with Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, etc.
    - Geography - Lansing will always be challenged due to it proximity to Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids.
    - Cargo operations seems to be steady?

    Bothersome that Washington DC is the number one end destination from Lansing, and Orlando is one of the top vacation destinations in the US, and Lansing struggles to support these flights. The article mentions the need to support the airport, which in turn creates more flights. Does the airport need to reach out to local businesses more? I remember in my years at MSU (~ 15 years ago) I don't recall hearing much about the airport. I wonder if that is still an issue there (considering many students are originally from out of town and not familiar with the airport)? Should we be optimistic about the near future?
  • edited June 2015
    Capital Region International is just going to have to find a niche. It will never be a huge airport being wedged in between places like Ford International, Metro, and to a lesser extent, Bishop. More than anything, it's location (a relatively short drive from one of the largest international airports in the world) is its greatest hinderance. It's always going to be a specialty airport. The article shows some ridiculous amount of potential passengers choose the drive to Grand Rapids, Flint or Detroit for cheaper airfare. There idea of funneling more local business travel into the airport would help, but very minimally. Bringing airfare down might help some, too, but there is no way we could bring them down to be directly competitive with the scale of the other airports,

    I don't know. Maybe as Lansing grows business and attracts new companies, there will be more demand for direct service. But, it seems businesses are pretty content with flying in clients and such from Metro or Ford and sending a car down to bring them up here.
  • I agree, Lansing will never have a huge airport (not in our lifetimes). Lansing's modest size and close proximity to Detroit prevent that. I'd almost be satisfied with what the airport had a few years ago:

    - Delta: Detroit, Minneapolis
    - United: Chicago
    - Sun Country: Minneapolis, Washington DC
    - Allegiant: Orlando
    - Apple Vacations (via Sun Country or Frontier): seasonal to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

    Delta recently added Atlanta seasonally -- Expand that to daily.
    Allegiant add Las Vegas flights.
    Love to see NYC flights (which is the #2 end destination from Lansing). I think best bet would be United to Newark, or Delta to LaGuardia (though both unlikely due to slot restrictions at NYC airports).
    Only my opinion, but that's all I'd like to see, or would have expected to see.

    Interesting that United planned flights to Washington Dulles airport (but dropped it what Sun Country began Washington Reagan flights). Maybe the airport could get United to begin Dulles.

    In some ways, the airport has/had found a niche with the seasonal international flights and customs area at the airport. Trying to expand cargo operations (already used by UPS). Given that, I think the airport has acknowledged that trying to add additional passenger carriers is unlikely to happen in the near term.

    Another challenge is money. A lot of carriers want revenue guarantees to expand service. (I read that Sun Country was already under a revenue guarantee for their DC service.) That's one advantage I think that Grand Rapids airport, for instance, has.
  • The airport is in a sad state now, it looked like things may turn around but apparently that isn't happening. It doesn't help that Capitol City's terminal is embarrassing compared to almost any other major airport in Michigan and North Grand River is hardly a welcoming entrance to the City. Lansing's airport needs a new terminal to even have a chance at decent passenger service, but with numbers like these I doubt they'll ever be able to justify it.

    The Master Plan has the right idea with a new entrance and new terminal off of Dewitt Rd/MLK

    airport.jpg
  • edited June 2015
    I'll really have to look into this, but I think a big problem with bringing the airport into the 21st century is how it's funded. I think they've been talking about a new terminal since I was a kid, and it's been almost 10 years since it was even included in the master plan. I really thought wresting control of it from DeWitt Township would have sped up the redevelopment around the airport (to make it more attractive for cargo operations), but it doesn't seem to have done much of anything.

    All that said, some of this is also just the changing nature of airlines and air travel that has to sort itself out, and while passenger numbers are down, they are still above the dark years of 2009 and 2010. And, cargo numbers were actually up in 2014 over 2013, and up quite a bit over the two lost years of 2009 and 2010.

    But, yeah, it's frustrating to see something that could be improved just kind of limp along.

    EDIT: So it seems that the Capital Region Airport Authority (which is appointed by Lansing and Ingham County) only levys up to 0.75 mills. What's the current CATA and parks millage rates? We probably need to bring it up to at least a full mill I'd think. The airport gets part of its revenue from flights, but with an airport that small that and the 3/4 mill isn't going to cut it, obviously. I keep forgetting that Eaton and Clinton don't help fund the airport, at all, which is another issue. The 425 Agreement at least brings control of the land to Lansing, but Lansing was already paying for it, anyway, so it's mostly symbolic aside from now finally being able to develop the land around the airport.
  • A new terminal seems like a waste of money to me. I'd rather see demand increase to the point where the current terminal can't handle the usage before a new one is built. Building one just to get a temporary increase in usage would be a great waste of money that could have gone to some other large infrastructure project(s).
  • I disagree. Sometimes you build a new terminal to attract potential flyers. Plenty of airports have modernized when numbers weren't rising. Capital Region International is easily one of the most outdated terminals of any major airport in the state. It's particularly an embarrassment as a gateway for Michigan's capital city. Flint of all places has a nicer airport. Flint decided years ago to attract new flyers, and they did just that with the construction of Bishop's new terminal. It's no wonder Flint Bishop flew (pun intended) by Lansing and stole scads of the region's customers.
  • I'm kind of in the middle regarding the new terminal. We don't have to be like the Jones' and build a new terminal just because another airport did; but we don't want to be by far the worst either such that we're not competitive. Saginaw and Kalamazoo, airports not growing and similar in size to what Lansing's will be, both opened new terminals recently -- perhaps a waste of money -- but size does not need to be a determinant. Just build a terminal similar in size to the current. But no, a new terminal will not entice Southwest to come in with daily flights to 12 cities. ('If we build it, they will come' is not the case.)

    I almost think Allegiant leaving (again) is more of an indictment to the airport. If we can't support Orlando flights twice a week... WOW. Allegiant was previously here from 2003-09, but Grand Rapids did not have low cost carriers then. It's maybe not that Lansing can't support them, but when everyone else has similar vacation flights -- Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit, and Kalamazoo (for a time) -- they become hard to sustain. Flint's airport struck a gold mine with Air Tran (now Southwest), Lansing needs to find their own.

    Sun Country to Washington was at risk -- the landing slots at Reagan airport that Sun Country used had I believe a 1,250 mile limit, so Sun Country could not fly non-stop from Minneapolis to DC (too far away). So Lansing was likely used only to support Minneapolis-DC. Sun Country 1-2 years ago acquired another slot at Reagan without the 1,250 mile limitation, so the Minneapolis-Lansing-DC route was less important to them.

    It's sort of a vicious cycle. Folks may not fly from Lansing due to cost or limited flight options, but the lack of fliers raises costs and limits flight options. Hard to break it.

    The airport is doing well to have Cancun flights (outside of Detroit no one else in Michigan is offering it). I think the airport needs less reliance on Detroit flights (many people drive it anyway) and maintain their Delta-Minneapolis flights and increase Atlanta. Beyond that, maybe entice United to fly 1x daily regional jets to Dulles (DC) airport. American to Chicago, Dallas, or New York seems like a stretch.

    I think the airport will have a hard time attracting new low-cost carriers to the airport:
    Allegiant -- just left
    Sun Country -- leaving
    Southwest -- serving Detroit, Gd Rapids, Flint already
    Spirit -- has a hub in Detroit
    Jet Blue -- not big in midwest, flies to Detroit already and I think Chicago
    Frontier -- hub in Denver (Grand Rapids already has Denver flights from Southwest and United), not sure Lansing could support.

    It will be interesting to see what the next few years bring to the airport.
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