Opinion: Direct Flight Funding Will Clear Indiana’s Economy For Takeoff
Indiana’s economy is soaring. We’re witnessing more talented Hoosiers and growing businesses choose to land in our state, right as the number of flights arriving at and departing our state’s airports daily continues to rise.
As the directors of Indiana’s airports in Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and South Bend, our facilities serve as the gateway to Indiana. With Indiana’s continued robust economic growth, several of our airports are welcoming a record number of passengers as they fly between Indiana and destinations across the country and around the world.
In today’s 21st century economy, flying allows Hoosiers to conduct business on a regional, national and global scale. Flights – in particular, direct flights – provide a critical quality of life amenity that makes it easier to attract new companies and for businesses to attract and retain top talent. That’s why we’re working diligently to expand Indiana’s direct flight options, in turn helping Indiana’s economy reach new heights.
We’re already seeing that upward momentum today. For example, we’ve added three new routes out of Evansville in the last two and a half years, five new routes out of Fort Wayne in the last five years and two new routes out of South Bend in the last three years. Indianapolis added an astounding 32 new routes in the last three years.
In Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend, our priorities are to expand domestic air service, especially to destinations east and west of Indiana. Too many people in our regions are traveling to out-of-state airports just to catch a flight. As airlines phase out and retire smaller aircrafts, we are also working to maintain the arrival and departure frequency on existing routes with larger aircraft. This will provide Hoosiers with more seats and more air service capacity across the state.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis has been named the best airport in North America for six years, but still does not have a transatlantic flight. On average, more than 250 people travel to Europe daily from Indiana, and those 250 people must make a time-consuming, delay-prone connection. If we can attract a direct transatlantic flight to Indianapolis, it’s estimated to have up to a $70 million annual economic impact on our state, opening greater opportunities for Hoosiers in today’s global economy.
To help make this vision a reality, Governor Eric Holcomb proposed making $5 million a year available in Indiana’s biennial budget for air service development. This will provide a tool that enables our state to compete more effectively for new direct routes. Using limited discretionary funds in 2014, Indiana secured nonstop air service between Indianapolis and San Francisco through United Airlines. Today that flight is still connecting Hoosiers to California, and not only is it now supported fully by market demand, it also has led to even more direct service to West Coast cities.
When it comes to business, it’s all about how quickly you can reach your customers, and that requires robust air service options. Let’s make sure we have the funding to clear Indiana’s continued economic growth for takeoff. By increasing Indiana’s direct flight options, Hoosiers and Indiana businesses will have access to more markets and unlimited economic opportunities.
Douglas P. Joest, Executive Director, Evansville-Vanderburgh Airport Authority
Scott Hinderman, Executive Director of Airports, Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority
Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director, Indianapolis Airport Authority
Mike Daigle, Executive Director, South Bend International Airport