Tulsa Airport’s nonstop flight plight is a familiar one for small cities
There’s no immediate help on the way for Tulsa and other small-city airports as most airlines are stuck on their hub fixations, dismissing the point-to-point needs of small- and not-so-small town America.
Tulsa business travelers are tired of missing out on nonstop flights to Los Angeles, Kansas City and Orlando, according to a survey that’s part of the Tulsa Regional Air Service Initiative, a recently launched effort by Tulsa International Airport.
Airlines already have nonstop flights from Tulsa International to seven of the top 10 most sought-after destinations, according to the survey. But service to the popular East and West coast hubs continues to elude the airport, as well as access to Kansas City, about a four-hour drive away.
“We’ve been meeting with airlines more this year than we ever have in the past,” said Alexis Higgins, director of marketing for the Tulsa Airport Authority.
The survey, conducted from late March to the end of April, collected 740 questionnaires with information mostly on which destinations fliers want available from Tulsa. It also collected information on what kind of amenities travelers want at the airport, such as wireless Internet access.
Airport staff released results of the survey Thursday at the Tulsa Airport Authority meeting.
The Internet survey, which was anonymous, reached out for input from business travelers and local companies.
Houston, Dallas, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles were the most sought-after destinations for travelers. Airlines already fly between Tulsa and most of the top destinations on the list, but Tulsa lost nonstop service to Los Angeles by United Airlines at the beginning of April after the carrier repeatedly shuffled the times of its flights.
Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Orlando, Atlanta and Denver also were high on the survey’s list of desired nonstop destinations.
Airport and city officials hope to use the survey to persuade airlines to add more nonstop destinations from Tulsa and make it faster and cheaper for business travelers to get in and out of the city.
Higgins said the airport hasn’t been able to support a flight directly to Kansas City because of the modern economics of the airline industry that encourages flying to major regional hubs.
“Airlines just don’t do many of those point-to-point routes,” she said.
Airport officials reached out to local companies because airlines are eagerly looking for business travelers who can fill routes with regularity. Such travelers also tend to pay more for premium seating and last-minute flights.
Orlando was a surprise to airport officials, since it is mostly considered a leisure travel destination. The central Florida city ranked eighth on the survey. Orlando is the 11th most popular travel destination among all fliers leaving Tulsa.
Airlines at Tulsa International fly nonstop to 16 cities, including service that started in April to Laughlin, Nev., about 100 miles south of Las Vegas. That route, scheduled to be in service until the end of the year, is a charter flight on Sun Country Airlines as part of promotion through a Nevada hotel and casino.
Southwest Airlines also started nonstop service to Chicago’s Midway International Airport in April. Tulsa already has service to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on American Airlines and United Airlines.
Tulsa International has accommodated 1.313 million enplaned passengers in the last 12 months, but traffic has been gradually declining since 2007, when more than 1.7 million passengers took off on flights from Tulsa. The drop follows similar trends in air traffic nationwide.
10 most-wanted nonstop destinations from Tulsa
4. New York City
5. Los Angeles*
6. Washington, D.C.
7. Kansas City*
– Destinations currently without nonstop service from Tulsa International Airport
Source: Tulsa Regional Air Service Initiative survey
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380