Sunday, August 27, 2006
What's in a name?
The reaction was swift and clear: 'Nooooo!' Many observers (myself included) didn't see how a name change was going to alter the course of events. What was hurting Manchester Airport wasn't a poor name, but rather an industry malaise. Good name or not, our airport was going to suffer. Indeed, many others argued that having 'Boston' as part of the name was tantamount to waving the white flag. 'We should never surrender!' the chorus went. I can see the logic behind the move; I just don't subscribe to it. The name change resulted from studies that showed a real lack of geographical knowledge relative to Manchester, New Hampshire. I'm not sure who the studies targeted, but many respondents had no clue as to where Manchester (or even New Hampshire!) was. I guess when it comes to studies (and political polls) you can ask a whole bunch of people a whole bunch of questions and once you find someone that fits the need, you stick with them! You know what kind of result you want and the trick is to build a set of responses that reinforce that result.
Anyway, the 'studies' did show that having 'Boston' in the name would help the cause. The focus group people probably searched until they found some 'Billy Bob Smith' down in Mississippi who truthfully had no clue what New Hampshire was, never mind where it was. So, on Billy-Bob's say-so, Manchester Airport turned into 'Manchester-Boston Regional Airport' almost overnight. Now that we've got the new name, what can we expect? Well, Kevin Dillon went out seeking the top job down at the Orlando International Airport after his power-play to change the airport name. So, one could infer that he'd rather be somewhere else. I won't editorialize further on that, but I will say that the new name is not likely to bear much if any fruit. I might be proven wrong, but I suspect that any GOOD things that happen at our airport won't result from the new name. These will happen because the airport is a great airport...not because it has a new and supposedly better name.
Time will tell.
Slow and steady wins the race
In 1998, Southwest Airlines went as far 'northeast' as they could get by coming to Manchester. The carrier boldly launched 12 flights from MHT: (8) to Baltimore-Washington; (2) to Chicago-Midway; (1) to Nashville, TN; and (1) to Orlando. Over the years, Southwest adjusted their schedules a bit at MHT. Gone is Nashville but viva Las Vegas, Tampa, and Philly! Southwest grew during a time when virtually all other carriers pulled inward and shrank. Today, Baltimore flights are now 11; Philadelphia is five; Orlando and Chicago now sit at four flights apiece; Tampa is three; and Las Vegas is one. That's 16 more flights, or 133% growth since Southwest came to town in 1998. No other carrier has done anywhere near as well at MHT, and the result is domination for Southwest.
Southwest drew rave reviews from industry watchers when it came to Manchester in 1998. By serving 'Boston' from Providence and Manchester rather than from Logan, the carrier was able to capture market share without dealing with Logan Airport. It turned out to be a brilliant move, as the MHT-BWI market zoomed up the charts and Manchester turned out to be one of Southwest's highest load-factor stations. As the saying goes: Build it, and they will come. And passengers came, in droves.
What sets Southwest apart from other carriers is that they simply set themselves apart. From cutting-edge marketing (see: 'DING!') to market domination, Southwest is to the world of legacy carriers what Disney World is to Canobie Lake.
They have the recipe right, and we know it.
2006: A down year no matter how you slice it
For passengers, the hassle factor goes up exponentially when you're forced from a comfortable, convenient airport like Manchester to a stress-filled war zone like Boston's Logan. Delta Airlines, the biggest advocate of this negative approach, has pulled mainline jets from Manchester and now flies small regional jets on its rather long route to Atlanta. For every person that doesn't mind the switch, there are hundreds that do.
Taking a different approach from Delta are the other major carriers at MHT, including United, USAirways, and Northwest. These carriers have tweaked their schedules a bit over the past few years but have generally kept a mainline presence here that Delta hasn't. King of the hill Southwest has largely kept a very robust schedule out of Manchester, so kudos to them for that.
The decline in traffic at MHT isn't a death knell, so let's dispense with that right now. This is the 'perfect storm' of conditions that has caused airlines to retrench rather than grow. Manchester Airport isn't seeing anything different from other airports around the country. This isn't a 'Manchester' thing as much as it is an 'industry' thing. The good news is that MHT is a proven station. We've demonstrated phenomenal growth here, and passengers know all about our airport. If the flights come back, they will too.
News of note this year has been a bit spartan, obviously. The 'biggest' news, of course, is the construction of a new control tower to replace the one over by the Ammon Terminal. The new tower is beautiful and gives controllers a great view of the whole field. As of this writing, the new tower is operational and the old one will come down sometime in September.
Also, observers witnessed a couple rare military troop charters that operated through MHT this summer. An American Airlines 757 came through on a Saturday afternoon to take the troops out west, followed a few weeks later by this colorful American Trans Air (ATA) 757 that brought the troops home.
Why a blog on an AIRPORT?
I'm a resident of southern New Hampshire and a big aviation fan. The Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is my home-town airport, and it's a jewel. These days, blogs are all over the place; everybody has one, it seems. I wanted to create a Blog for MHT as a way for me to post a chronological 'what's-going-on' at our airport. Let me also say here and now that my focus will be on the commercial side of aviation, and cargo too. MHT has other things going on in terms of general and biz aviation--Wiggins and such--but I'll leave that to other bloggers.
What will the rest of 2006 bring? How about 2007? This is one place to keep track of it all! This blog will be a place for my own personal musings about MHT, my own experiences and observations. I'll report news as I come across it, and I won't be shy about posting rumors I hear. Of course, those 'rumors' will be defined as such.
I hope you enjoy--and bookmark--this blog for future reading! Speaking of bookmarks, please check out those on the left. You'll find links to the Manchester Airport official site, and to my own Manchester Airport Yahoo! Group. If you like listening to MHT Tower, there's a link that'll take you there. Finally, if you're a commercial aviation nut, you obviously know about www.airliners.net. But the link is there in case you're not as nutty as some of us!