TIA trying to entice more non-stops - Tucson News Now

TIA trying to entice more non-stops

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Two years ago, TIA started an incentive program to try to lure more non-stop flights to Tucson.

One air line bit, Alaska, non-stop to Portland.

In an airline world which is changing dramatically and often, that's not much to show for the effort.

So the board of directors at the Tucson Airport Authority has approved a new, more generous plan.

The new incentives may offer an airline which agrees to a Tucson non-stop route, $100,000 in marketing funds.

To sweeten the pot, it may also waive some landing fees and weight fees they charge now.

It may give a $2 credit for each enplaned passenger to be used against terminal rents.

"Most airlines are reducing costs, cutting flights," says Richard Gruentzel, the Airport Authority and brains behind the plan. "The industry has charged dramatically in the past five or six years."

Tucson Airport is likely to see its third straight year of passenger declines, which is industry wide.

Airlines are trying to maximize passenger loads which makes hub airports more attractive and mid-size airports like Tucson, a bit less attractive.

By maximizing loads, the airlines can also maximize ticket prices.

But it's not just cheaper fares as some airports versus Tucson that are driving the numbers down.

"Our fares are competitive," says Greuentzel. "On average we're about $25 more than Phoenix but when you take into consideration driving to Phoenix and parking, Tucson is in many cases cheaper."

Southern Arizona passengers agree it's not always the fares, but the convenience.

"It's only an hour from Sierra Vista so it works for me," says Denise Campbell, who says the soldiers at Fort Huachuca feel the same.

"When I'm in Nogales, it's only an hour away," says Danny Recker, a contractor. "Phoenix is another two hours away, so it's closer here."

Which is the point of luring more non-stops, of which TIA has 15 right now.

"Greuentzel says that's down from a "high of 25 during the housing boom."

"It keeps the dollars local and really helps the local economy," he says.

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