Topics Included Plans to Attract New Carriers & Overcoming Current Industry Challenges
On Thursday, November 2, 2023, the Erie International Airport Authority (ERAA) — the appointed governing body of the Erie International Airport (ERI) — hosted a community town hall to discuss the state of the airport as well as plans for growth.
Held at the Bayfront Convention Center with members of the ERAA Board, Erie City Council, and Erie County Council present, the event centered on airport operations, standards, and regulations, including efforts to bring new service to the airport and reduce prices — two major goals critical to the airport’s future in the region. Part of the ERAA’s ongoing commitment to transparency, the town hall featured an overview of the new Fly Erie Fund initiative and an update on American Airlines adding an additional daily flight connecting Erie and Charlotte, beginning in April.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure people understand what’s going on at the airport authority — what’s going on with air service, what we’re trying to do to attract air service, what the airlines are doing, their business plans — so there’s a real understanding of what’s going on in the industry,” said Derek Martin, executive director of the ERAA.
Acknowledging recent challenges and that there is still work to be done, Martin assured attendees that they were taking key steps to entice more travelers and airlines to the airport.
With legacy carriers changing their business models after the pandemic and the aircraft and pilot retirements which resulted, Erie is among over six-dozen communities across the country who have lost carriers. Fewer airlines not only means fewer destinations but also higher costs for the remaining carriers.
Regarding United Airline’s decision to cease operations at the airport last June, Martin said,“This is not something that’s just happening in Erie. This is happening nationwide — 74 communities have lost their services. We’re not alone.”
Due to legacy carriers reluctance to return to smaller airports in the near future, the ERAA has had to explore other solutions, specifically the Fly Erie Fund — a partnership between the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth which seeks to raise public and private sector money to subsidize Erie flights and create leverage to attract legacy airliners and ultra-low-cost carriers.
The airport does not receive local taxes and most of the $19.6 million in funding that the airport received over the last two years was limited to infrastructure and could not be used for operating costs.
“You have airports like Canton, Akron, and Pittsburgh that have similar types of funds funded by local businesses,” Martin said. “So, there’s other communities doing similar things. We wanted to get something up and running so we are in the game that we have something to talk about.”
Martin stressed the importance of the airport as a vital resource to the region and driver of the local economy, conveying that a lot of businesses in the community would suffer and stagnate without air service. In 2019, the airport supported nearly 1,000 jobs, including those at the facility and throughout the region, because of local travel options.
“People want to be able to get in and out of the community, and if you have an airport, the community grows and prospers,” said Martin, who added that their top priority right now is bringing in a low-cost carrier to the airport with round trips to Florida.