EDITORIAL: Time to Restudy Airport Situation
Haunted by the struggles in the economy and the loss of Delta service last year, the Moore County Airport Authority could be forgiven if it dropped the passenger service initiative altogether.
Authority members and the airport administration are understandably frustrated by the current situation, but authority chairman John Owen, a retired Marine master sergeant, says the authority plans to soldier on.
However, Owen is wise to accept the reality that passenger service is not likely to materialize in the present economy, especially with major airlines across the country in dire financial straits.
This is a good time to restudy the situation and regroup for future recruitment efforts. The economy may be weak, but now is the ideal time for the authority to take a second look at the airport situation while airlines are working out their difficulties.
Next Step Is Critical
The airline industry has not received much good publicity in recent years. Passenger complaints about crowding, flight cancellations, lost baggage, and high prices are sending some potential customers to their automobiles and to railway service. Airlines no doubt have suffered from too much success in the past two decades, and now they cannot meet the demand and at the same time make a profit and satisfy passengers.
Rather than pursuing a speedy, and probably rash, effort to attract a new airline to Moore County, the authority should take time to think carefully about the next step. The Delta relationship was not a healthy one, and it was soon clear that Delta itself, along with other major airline companies, was not in good financial shape.
The authority may have made mistakes, but Delta apparently made plenty of mistakes in its service through the Moore County Airport. The convenience of local passenger service was clearly outweighed by such realistic complaints as high-priced tickets, changing schedules and tepid marketing.
Meanwhile, the authority can review mistakes and map strategy to stop a recurrence of the Delta disaster.
A Vital Economic Tool
Although the authority probably had ample grounds to pursue its complaint against Delta, the settlement reached in federal court last summer undoubtedly worked out best for the airport -- and for the state, which paid the bulk of the bill submitted by Delta. Taking the issue to trial would have been costly and time-consuming, especially when the opponent is a huge corporation. Under the settlement, the county did save money, as did the state.
The wise learn from mistakes, although that is no assurance future mistakes of a different nature will not be made. In this case, both the authority and state officials who agreed to underwrite the airport incentive to Delta may have identified pitfalls to be avoided in future negotiations.
Despite the recession, investment money is out there, and surely our country has not lost its entrepreneurial imagination. The concept of Moore County as the birthplace of a new and successful airline may be fanciful, but it's not impossible.
Arguments that the airport is a service for the wealthy have some validity, but the effect of tourism on the overall economy cannot be overlooked. The airport is a vital tool of economic development, and it is something that benefits the community as a whole. Unless Moore County is prepared to undergo a painful economic alteration, it cannot do without the airport forever.
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