Airport Poised For Takeoff Under New Management


From The Hartford Courant

Finally, Connecticut's airports are under new management.

After two years of preparation, the Connecticut Airport Authority has taken over operation and management of Bradley International Airport and the state's five other general aviation airports (Danielson, Groton/New London, Hartford Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford and Windham airports) from the state Department of Transportation. The Federal Aviation Authority approved the transfer last week, effective Monday. This is most welcome news, one that should bode well for the development of air travel and aviation-related commerce in the state.

The point of putting the airports under a quasi-public independent aviation authority, a model used at many major airports around the country, is that an authority is not hamstring by state contracting, purchasing and other rules, and thus has the flexibility to make real-time business decisions. The authority worked with the DOT over the past year, preparing for the transfer of authority, and provided some examples of how a more nimble management can work.

For example, the authority put in a cellphone parking lot at Bradley last fall — a temporary parking area for drivers picking up arriving passengers. Most airports have them, and Bradley needed one. The DOT for whatever reason never created one, perhaps because of the bureaucratic hurdles, but the authority just went ahead and did it. Now drivers don't have to keep circling the airport, park on the shoulder of the road or pay to park in the garage.

The authority can offer incentives, such as marketing assistance or temporary breaks on airport fees, to acquire new routes. This is a standard business practice, but one that is difficult if not impossible to employ under state contracting rules. Using incentives, the airport added a half-dozen new routes this spring, including a nonstop flight to Los Angeles, a flight to Atlanta and more flights to Florida.

Going forward, the authority will push for more routes including transatlantic service, more customer amenities and more economic development around the airports. Bradley is the second largest airport in New England and according to a recent economic analysis contributes $4 billion in economic activity to the region including 18,000 full-time jobs. Those numbers are impressive; the state is now positioned to increase them.

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