+ SRQ was over-expanded
I am afraid that no matter how many dollars our taxpayer-subsidized airport’s public relations specialists keep spending, travelers will only fly SRQ if the ticket cost is low enough to compete with much cheaper tickets out of neighboring alternative airports and for no other reason, whatsoever, publicity blitzes included.
Next time I am shopping for airline tickets, I’ll call SRQ’s CEO and have him point out to me the magic website where, according to him, he found tickets out of SRQ for only $27 above Tampa International. Had that been true, travelers would have already been flooding SRQ’s gates without the need of any expensive marketing blitz at all.
I always check everything on the web and find flying out of SRQ to cost typically as much as $200 more than nearby alternatives, not just $27; unless that is for some flight that leaves SRQ at 4 a.m. or something like that. I would have gladly opted for the convenience of flying out of SRQ had it only cost me just a mere $27 more.
Let’s face a sad reality of market economics. Sarasota-Bradenton’s demographic numbers are not anywhere large enough to make such a huge and luxurious airport as the current one cost effective without burdening local taxpayers for subsidizing it to survive. It was expanded extravagantly a few years ago, at very high cost, not because of market economics but because of local officials’ and business leaders’ pride and ambition to have a large “international” airport here. It’s reminiscent of their similar past efforts for a money-loosing mega convention center here, which wisely and, fortunately, has been thwarted thus far.
Our airport should have been left the size that was economically appropriate for our metropolitan area. I wish we had learned from the Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, a much smaller metro area with an airport that is nevertheless thriving and getting busier all the time, because, unlike ours, it was wisely kept small and less expensive.
Instead of expensive PR campaigns, I think what might help is assigning one SRQ employee with a computer and offering the public a phone number to call and be told which airline, if any, coming to SRQ offers tickets to desired destinations at only $27 above other nearby airports.