CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Tuesday, Corpus Christi City Council passed a resolution to go forward with the Air Service Incentive Program at Corpus Christi International Airport.
The program provides perks to the airlines; but what does it mean for the passengers?
Airlines across the country have incentive programs. So, Director of Aviation Kevin Smith said it only makes sense for Corpus Christi to have one. The FAA allows airports to waive fees. CCIA is offering to waive landing fees and a portion of rental fees inside the airport for the airlines.
Currently, CCIA has three airlines operating there. The program has goals to increase the amount of people flying, the amount of new passengers, increase non-stop services and increase non-flying revenue.
“So, it allows like a United (Airlines) to try a route to Denver and the only cost they would have is fuel," said Smith. "They wouldn’t have to pay for anything other than that.”
The other goals are to attract new airlines to Corpus Christi, thus bringing in more possible destinations.
“Once we can get some connectivity out of Texas, I think that’s going to open up a lot of opportunity , especially if we get another hub," said Smith. "A Denver, a Charlotte, an Atlanta, we’d love to see a Miami route because you can get to Aruba very easily from Miami.”
Tony Stewart was flying back to Minnesota on Wednesday from Corpus Christi. He works in the medical field and said he travels to Texas two to four times a month.
“Direct flights and more flights out of Corpus (Christi) would be great just because we do a lot of work in Texas," Stewart said. "Travel around the country and this is one of the more difficult areas to get to when we do have a decent sized presence in the area.”
The possibility of adding trips to Mexico are also being discussed. Currently, the only international flights that come in to Corpus Christi are non-commercial flights. Should those flights get the green light, there is a U.S. Customs officer here that can staff more than 30 officers.
Smith said, ballpark, if you plan ahead, flight tickets are between $200 to $300. That could dip if more airlines enter the mix to provide more supply.
"We've seen round trips as high as $1,000 to Denver," said Smith. So we're working with the airlines and showing them these examples, so that they can go back to their revenue planners and say, 'Hey we're a little off key here in this city. So can you look at it again?'"
Adversely, if there is a high demand for a flight, it's going to hurt your wallet.
"It's supply and demand," Smith said. "Once those seats hit 80 percent capacity, the rates start going up incrementally. And when you hit 90 percent, they almost price themselves out of the market because they don't really want anyone else to book flights."
Jillian Dunnam is a Corpus Christi resident who said she flies about every three months. She was getting ready for another flight Wednesday afternoon. She said she'd fly more if there were more options and the cost wasn't so high. She can't afford to bring her children along.
"That's why they’re not here with me today, because I didn’t want to spend the extra $800 for them to come," she said. "So, it was a logistics nightmare to get my mom, my aunt..”
The program only works if there are enough airplanes and crew to staff those added flights. City council approved the program through 2025, but Smith said it could be extended if it works out.
In Smith's presentation to city council, he showed that there wouldn't be a loss of revenue by waiving some fees. The expectation is that money from concessions, parking, and other non-flight related expenses would balance out that loss.
Smith said two to three airlines have expressed interest in planting roots in CCIA. Smith and other city leaders will be meeting with representatives of the newly merged Frontier and Spirit Airline, at a conference in San Antonio next week.
In April, CCIA will have more flights and seats in the market than they had before the pandemic. Smith said 16 to 18 flights a day will be leaving CCIA.
Other improvements in the works at the airport is the remodeling of bathrooms in the concourse before security, installation of an 85" television, remodeling all concessions and gift shops, and creating a new bar with patio in the waiting area.
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