You Are Now Free To Move About The Country Without Subsidies
When I hear “Branson” and “airport,” I typically think of Richard Branson (of Virgin Atlantic Airways) and how I will never be as cool as him. Not only does he frequently make all sorts of world record attempts, but more importantly, he got to appear on an episode of Friends.
But today we are talking about a different Branson. You may have heard that Saturday marked the beginning of Southwest Airlines service to Branson, Mo. There will now be daily flights to Chicago, Dallas, and Houston, and one flight a week to Orlando. This news comes on the heels of a decrease in flights to Columbia, Mo.
There is obviously a lot that contributes to the decision for an airline to begin or increase service. But it is worth noting two things. One, Branson is the only privately owned and operated commercial airport in the country. Many were skeptical that it would succeed. Industry expert Mike Boyd predicted when the airport opened that “the local population is too small, and the region’s attractions aren’t sufficient to consistently generate sufficient traffic for profitable air service.” Branson may be small, but the area has generated enough demand to keep air service over the past few years.
And, they have done it without major subsidization. This airport does not rely on taxpayers to operate (but it does receive $8 from the city for each arriving visitor). Nor does it rely on taxpayer money to attract business. Columbia ran into trouble when it offered subsidies to one airline but not the others; the others are now gone. Subsidies may help attract an airline in the short term. But Delta official Trebor Banstetter reinforced that subsidies such as revenue guarantees will not keep an airline around if the flight does not prove to be successful without that guarantee.