Grand Rapids Airport Says Abused by Legacy Airlines

Last Updated Feb 3, 2010 10:50 AM EST

It appears that Grand Rapids Airport (that's Gerald R Ford International, in case you were wondering) has deployed a very interesting tactic in its fight for more air service . . . insults. I can't say I imagine this is going to help their cause very much. It's actually a dangerous move.

Today, Grand Rapids has good service levels as follows:

  • Delta (DAL) to Atlanta, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis, New York/LaGuardia, Washington/National, and Orlando
  • American (AMR) to Chicago/O'Hare and Dallas/Ft Worth
  • United (UAUA) to Chicago/O'Hare and Denver
  • Continental (CAL) to Cleveland, Newark, and Houston
  • Allegiant (ALGT) to Ft Lauderdale, Orlando, Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa, and St Petersburg/Tampa
  • Midwest to Milwaukee
  • Air Canada to Toronto
Looks pretty good, right? Once the Delta/US Airways slot swap is approved, US Airways (LCC) will take over the flight to Washington/National adding yet another carrier to the mix. And just this week, AirTran announced it was coming to Grand Rapids with flights to both Baltimore and Orlando. Allegiant also announced that it would open a base in Grand Rapids. In fact, it was that AirTran service announcement that spurred the negative comments from the airport.

Airport Director Jim Koslosky said, "Now we can get some respect from our incumbent carriers. We've been abused by the legacy carriers." Really? Is that smart?

Yes, Grand Rapids is a very expensive airport (one of the most expensive in the US for travelers), but now you're effectively putting all your eggs in one basket by praising AirTran and scolding the rest of the airlines. What if the AirTran service doesn't work out? Then you'll be back where you were in the first place, but now you will airlines that certainly aren't going to go out of their way to work with you.

Maybe you're feeling comfortable that Allegiant is stepping up its commitment as well, but Allegiant serves a very small niche. Yes, your residents can get to sun destinations, but they can't connect anywhere else. That's what the legacy airlines offer, and publicly scolding them isn't going to help your cause.

I would certainly be excited about having a low cost carrier like AirTran come to my airport as well, if I had one, but I wouldn't use that opportunity to bash the airlines that are already there. It's not smart.