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Regional airports expect service expansion boom

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Regional airports in the United States are on the verge of experiencing airline service expansion and facility expansion on a scale not seen since the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978.

Passenger enplanements on the nation's regional airlines increased by 7 percent during 1998 with 71 million travelers boarding regional carriers.

According to the Regional Airline Association, regional carriers now serve 95 percent of all airports receiving commercial airline service in North America.

The air transportation of both people and goods in the United States is served by a number of hub-and-spoke route systems.

Many spoke cities have developed regional airports to serve as the point of passenger origin or destination for a number of smaller communities within a regional geographical area.

Regional airports have no, or very few, connecting or transfer passengers, and handle between 600,000 and 1.5 million total passengers annually, with destinations all over the United States and connections to international markets.

Hub airports are facing congestion and capacity issues and, coupled with the introduction of the new 50- to 70-seat regional jet aircraft, offer route expansion opportunities to communities served by regional airports.

In addition, partnerships with the major U.S. and international carriers offer almost unlimited one-stop travel for both the domestic and international traveler.

The introduction of regional jets to regional airports now served by mostly turboprop aircraft generates facility problems.

At this time, several turboprop aircraft can be handled at a single gate, but the regional jet generally requires its own gate.

Existing aircraft loading bridges are not compatible with the regional jets, requiring interim modifications until the next generation of bridges is designed to handle a combination of regional jets, DC-9 and B-737 aircraft, which have historically served the regional markets.

Regional airports are easy to access, have uncongested airspace, and are generally environmentally compatible with their adjoining communities.

A typical regional airport in the United States might be served by one or two major airlines with DC-9, B-737 jet service and three to five regional airlines operating Beech 1900, SAAB 340 and ATR turboprop aircraft. Each airline generally provides service to a different hub.

It is unusual for a regional airport servicing multiple hubs to have competitive air service by two or more airlines to a single hub.

A regional airport would have 40 to 60 departures a day[[In-content Ad]]

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