Update – September 4, 2018

September 10 2018 Update Is In Progress… Standby


The Pay Phones Are Gone.

Rural Airports Need To Recognize The Opportunity.

The indications all are pretty consistent.

  • Last week, OneJet, an operation geared to providing point-to-point flights in non-served secondary markets that once may have had tens of thousands of passengers, ended up sleeping with the fishes…
  • Then we have Surf Air, a menu-driven sort of membership affair, aimed at re-connecting smaller airports, finding itself all wrapped around the financial axle with one of its suppliers…
  • How about Seaport, another attempt at intra-regional air service, going 86.
  • Pen Air, an airline that tried intra-regional air service, will have its assets sold off in a bankruptcy auction this week, someplace in Alaska…
  • And pay phones have also largely disappeared at airports.

All of these events are completely related.

They represent some of the major changes in consumer communication channels. And, like all such changes, they are part of other emerging shifts that can represent new opportunities.

The pay phone thing is emblematic. New communication channels – cell phones, instant messaging, e-mail, etc. – have made these devices completely obsolete.

Passenger Economics Have Changed. New Communication & Logistics Channels Are Emerging. It’s much the same with intra-regional and rural air service. What was flying around 30 years ago represented a communication channel that is as functionally and economically as obsolete as the little booths where mild-mannered Clark Kent did a quick costume change from time to time.

The fact is that the economics of air transportation have changed, and separate from that, the communication channels used by the modern consumer economy have also changed. Result: a lot of intra-regional air service, and a lot of service that some airports once could support, are as dead as the demand for black-and-white television sets.

Two Words, Benjamin: Logistics & Distribution. As we pointed out at the 2018 International Aviation Forecast Summit, consumer communication patterns and demands have changed. Intra-regional air service between small and mid-size communities is now largely an obsolete and inferior means of business interaction.

It is unfortunate that the air service strategies being foisted on a lot of airports are the equivalent of doing a study to find out how to bring back Ma Bell and have her re-hang some new pay phones on the terminal wall.

The failure after failure of airlines attempting to fill this “need” might be an indication.

Alternative Communication Pattern = Alternative Opportunities. We’ve pointed it out in the past. A lot of small airport air service development schemes are little more than primitive cargo-cult activities, albeit more marketing-sophisticated.

Instead of more “task forces” or DOT study voodoo, the future for small airports remains within the very dynamics that have killed off the pay phone and intra-regional passenger service.

As we noted at the IAFS™ in Denver, the name of the future game is logistics – moving goods and services faster and more efficiently. While communication is now instant, logistics are still in the molasses-bound 1950s.

Today, air cargo is not much different from when in the late 1940s American implemented its fleet of DC-6A freighters. Planes are faster, but overall logistical channels aren’t much changed. Move it to the cargo facility, build the pallet, fill the ULD, put it on the plane, and reverse the process at the other end.

Things are fixin’ to change.

Take A Look At A Rural Map. We’d suggest that US airports – particularly rural airports – start to look beyond wallowing around trying to recruit Cessna 208 flights that nobody wants to get on, and start to re-think their role in the next leap in logistics.

Look! Up In The Sky! It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! No, It’s UAS Technology! Think rapid, cost-efficient distribution. Then look at a map of rural Wyoming or Montana… Every small airport has potential to re-invent itself as a logistics distribution point. No, not traditional “air cargo” – that concept is up there with hula-hoops.

It’s rapid logistics – not with today’s systems, but in ten years, technology will change logistics to be a much faster communication channel and one that is in all areas of the country. That will mean a need for rural distribution centers. Think about it.

Point: the demise of the pay phone and the fact that intra-regional passenger service is now obsolete, are just one side of the new logistics future.

Planning For The Future… It Means Dropping The Past. Rather than go on, Boyd Group International in the coming weeks will be exploring this new dimension facing airports – and particularly those in rural areas of the nation.

Moving into the future, there’s a lot of life after pay phones and scheduled service.