Airport officials in South Bend say a recently-launched effort to get areas businesses to fly locally instead of through places like Chicago is already paying dividends. South Bend International Airport Executive Director Mike Daigle says Project Propel’s message of cost and productivity savings is striking a chord. “A lot of folks aren’t really taking in the true cost of travel,” said Daigle. “We’ve talked to literally 50 to 80 businesses so far and every one of them has agreed that they want to do this.”
In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Daigle said while other cities have tried similar initiatives, Project Propel is unique.
In announcing the initiative in March, officials estimated 60 percent of business flights currently go to airports in Chicago, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis. They hope a collaborative effort among nearly four dozen northern Indiana and southwest Michigan communities will keep more of that business at home.
They pointed to a similar effort in the greater Grand Rapids area that resulted in an estimated $100 million staying in the local economy in its first year.
But Daigle points to a significant difference in the South Bend effort in that it is not built on asking for money from communities to entice airlines to add service. “We’re saying use the service there is and the airlines will add more service,” said Daigle, noting that Delta Airlines has already added seats in the market and United Airlines will be adding flights to New York and Chicago soon. Daigle said the new flights are proof that “competition works.”
The Project Propel initiative adds to momentum that seems to be building at the state’s third-largest airport.
Earlier this year American Airlines announced it would restart operations with twice-daily flights from South Bend to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Those new flights begin June 7.