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Killeen airport 180? As Delta exits, new company could be hired to help

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Delta Air Lines

A Delta Air Lines plane taxies the runway at the Killeen–Fort Hood Regional Airport on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

Delta Air Lines at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport has a one-way ticket out of town Jan. 15, and as its departure date looms, the city of Killeen is left trying to retain its other two airlines, American Airlines and United.

The city has three regional meetings scheduled to get public involvement with the Airport Master Plan, a document designed to narrow what the airport’s short-term, intermediate and long-term goals should be.

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Killeen airport

The Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport is seen at 8101 S. Clear Creek Road in Killeen.

The city also is looking for a new company to help turn around ridership and maybe even help find another airline. The city had been working with Oregon-based Sixel Consulting to do this, but the contract expired in September.

Delta stunned airport leadership Nov. 28 by announcing it would leave, citing a “sustained decline in demand.”

Months before the announcement, Matthew Van Valkenburgh, the city’s executive director of aviation, stressed the importance of ridership: “It’s simple; if you don’t use it, you can very well lose it.”

Passenger boarding at the Killeen airport declined 9 percent in 2016 compared to the year before, and 2016 had the lowest air ridership and passenger activity in a decade. The best year in ridership was in 2010, but boardings and arrivals have been declining almost every year since then.

Still, American and United are both committed to the area, Van Valkenburgh has said.

MEETINGS

The Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport announced three public meetings last week to provide area residents and businesses opportunities for input on the Airport Master Plan, a planning and guiding document designed to narrow what the airport’s future should look like.

The first meeting is 6-8 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Killeen Utility Collections Conference Room, 210 W. Avenue C. Two meetings will be at the same time and date the next day, 6-8 p.m. Jan. 18, but at different locations: the Harker Heights Activities Center, Room C, 400 Indian Trail in Harker Heights, and at the Copperas Cove Council Chambers, 508 S. Second St., in Copperas Cove.

What would it take for you to fly more from the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport?

You voted:

Comments will be solicited at the meetings, and planning staff will be on-hand to discuss the project.

A grant from the Federal Aviation Administration is funding the plan’s development, according to a legal notice posted to the airport’s website.

FLIGHT PLAN

Over the past three years, the Killeen airport had 12-month, no-bid contracts with Sixel Consulting to help maximize Killeen’s air service potential, such as how best to maintain existing services, but also looking at increasing flight frequencies to existing markets, adding destinations and luring an airline.

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Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport

A statue of Cpt. Robert M. Gray stands near the baggage checking area at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport in August 2017.

Ridership and revenue went down anyway.

A similar situation happened with the airport’s marketing firm, Killeen-based Dynamic Designs.

Since before the airport’s revamp and grand opening in 2004, a peak in passengers in 2010, and throughout the decline in ridership since 2013, the company has worked to promote the facility and its services.

Expense data provided by the city show more than $700,000 in KEDC money and nearly $48,000 of city appropriations were allocated to Dynamic Designs in fiscal years 2014-2016.

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Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport 3

Passengers check their bags Tuesday at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport at 8101 S. Clear Creek Rd. in Killeen. Since 2010, the airport has seen a 34.7 percent decrease in total passenger activity — nearly 150,000 fewer total enplanements and deplanements per year.

Van Valkenburgh previously said, “it is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Despite the expiration of Sixel’s contract, the airport’s still been getting help.

Jeremiah Gerald, who was the Sixel consultant who primarily worked with Killeen, left the company for ASM Global Route Development, a subsidiary of U.K.-based UBM, and became the interim consultant, Van Valkenburgh said.

A window then opened Dec. 17-Jan. 23 to allow qualified companies to apply for the job.

The wish list includes:

• Experience conducting usage and “leakage” studies and analysis

• Visually appealing graphic design, innovative presentation methods

• Relationships with domestic and international airlines

• Demonstrated collaboration on air service strategies with governmental agencies

• Knowledge of air service incentive programs

Applications should also provide an overview of: air service opportunities at the airport; airlines the airport should meet with at aviation conferences and why; potentially productive routes; and marketing potential.

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Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport

The Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport is seen at 8101 S. Clear Creek Road in Killeen. The city's executive director of aviation, Matt Van Valkenburgh, recognizes the importance airfare pricing: “We will use ... a two-pronged approach in continuing our dialogue with the airlines to get them to recognize the need and to use a more competitive price, while continuing to tout the convenience of KFHRA.”

Air service development is not an instant gratification or reward endeavor, Van Valkenburgh said, because it takes time to build relationships, show community interest, and persuade an airline a route is a good business investment.

“There is no quick panacea to this issue. Airports which are most competitive are those whose ridership shows commitment to the area,” he said.

Delta Air Lines did not respond to Herald questions about where it stands on helping fliers with travel plans beyond the last day operating day of Jan. 15.

MORE ONLINE

Go to http://bit.ly/2l82ZZ1 to read the Herald’s first story taking a look at the Killeen airport’s usage and how competition between airlines often drives lower fares. See http://bit.ly/2yYwNei to learn more about the financial hole left by Delta’s departure, and to see how much money travelers paid in 2016 to fly from Killeen round-trip.

Go to http://bit.ly/2BBYD2o to read about the airport’s marketing challenges.

asierra@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7463

(5) comments

Hzzlrp10

I'm with the others on this one. The city representatives must be bigger idiots than they let on if they can't figure this one out. It is cheaper to pay for gas and multiple day parking and fly out of Austin that is to fly out of Killeen. Not everyone has the Department of Defense paying for their airfare. For those of us flying on our own dime price does matter.

If your potential passengers can drive 180 miles round trip, pay for multiple days worth of parking and STILL come out ahead there is a serious problem.

Hacksaw

It has always been expensive to fly out of Killeen. Even back in the days of Rio Airways flying out of what is now, Skylark Field. Cost alone is not the only factor limiting passengers movements today.
For the first several years after Killeen/Robert Gray became a joint use airport, during bad weather there was only one precision approach to guide air traffic during bad weather. I've personally been on flights that either got cancelled in Dallas or had to turn around and go back to Dallas after they couldn't land. Eventually a second precision instrument approach was installed to guide aircraft to either runway. But now the city decides to add additional fees to every passenger to help pay for failing equipment at the terminal.
Killeen leaders have no vision. They have repeatedly demonstrated any real lack of understanding of planning for the future. They should have foreseen the need to replace mechanical equipment. Now they can't even buy parts because the equipment they chose to use was built by a company no longer in business. Yet they continue to pass the costs on to consumers.
There's no excuse for a flight from Killeen to Dallas to cost more than a flight from Austin to Little Rock. And most people flying out of Killeen plan to go a lot farther than that first leg to Dallas!

Coach C

I don't know why they haven't figured this out yet. Everyone rather drive to Austin to catch a flight because it's cheaper. Including gas cost.

For the past 3-4 years that I've been traveling for conferences and special events, I've flown out of Austin. The commute is worth saving the money in fare prices. After parking and gas, I still come up saving money that flying out from within town.

Even flown out of San Antonio once. SAN ANTONIO! There is a lot of people who make that drive to Austin/Dallas to catch cheaper fares. Lower your fare prices, retain the business from Central Texas communities. Then you'll see those numbers go up.

SnowWhiteNthe7Thieves

People are dreaming if they believe their little backwater airport will be profitable. The latter part of the 19th century railroads were built all across America. Some towns had stage lines. Once the railroads came, the stage line running through River City shut down because the train station opened in nearby Lakeville. With a large airport nearby in Austin, larger airports in San Antonio and two near Dallas, its not hard to understand why Killeen's little stage line is about to die. There are only three major airlines in the US, Amercian, Delta, and United. Mergers and consolidations caused that reduction. Sure, there is Southwest, but villages like Killeen don't fit their business model. There are maybe 4 or 5 other carriers, again Killeen isn't for any of them. This backwater, crime infested, run down, corrupt ridden village off a REAL Interstate is about to get a lesson in economics. KILLeen, the village that buys churches, where the schools take people for ride called the JOURNEY (aka Schlechty), where school funds build roads for crooked developers to build cardboard junk houses to scam unsuspecting soldiers, SAD SAD SAD :(

Hacksaw

Don't sugar coat it Snowwhite; tell em straight!
(couldn't agree more) Well said.

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