Can New Direct Flights Boost Louisville's Economy?
Seven passengers were welcomed with applause when they got off the first direct flight of OneJet from Pittsburgh to Louisville on Monday. The 16,500 lb. jet, which travels about 500 miles per hour, is controlled by two pilots and holds seven passengers.
During a news conference on Monday, regional airline operator OneJet announced direct flights from Louisville to two new cities: Kansas City and Raleigh-Durham.
Businesses in Louisville have advocated for more direct flights to attract companies to locate in the city. Matt Maguire, CEO of OneJet, said the company is filling a void in the business community.
"Specifically the Pittsburgh-Louisville route was very important for one of our existing corporate clients, PNC Bank, which has a major presence in Pittsburgh.” he said.
Mayor Greg Fischer, who attended the news conference, said direct flights are often mentioned when the city talks to companies about locating in Louisville.
"Airlift is one of the big issues that comes up,” he said. “So announcements like this today also send a signal to companies looking to locating in our city that we’re a city that’s getting things done.”
Reducing travel time between cities can lead to more investment in a region. It can also decrease costs, such as shipping goods.
Clifford Winston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, specializes in transportation. He said improved air service can boost some sectors in a city. In a 2013 article published in the Journal of Economic Literature, Winston gave an example of how improved air travel spurred the banking sector in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But he said there's not enough research on the effects of improved air transportation on any city's economy.
Leisure travelers also benefit from direct flights. Accessibility can be a factor when travelers choose their next destination.
Sandra Moran, director of marketing at the KFC Yum Center, said anywhere between 20-60 percent of event attendees come from outside the Louisville region. One of the largest events at the arena this year was a series of Garth Brooks concerts. Moran said that more than half of the 75,000 attendees traveled from outside the region to attend, and she estimates that a considerable amount flew.
Larger airlines are stepping up direct flights as well. American Airlines resumed direct flights to and from Louisville and New York last month.
“We saw that Louisville was one of the top destinations for our customers that were going through our other hubs,” said LaKesha Brown, spokeswoman for American Airlines. “So we realized we needed direct service.”