Tucson International Airport compiling a case for more nonstops

2014-03-19T00:00:00Z 2014-03-19T09:49:05Z Tucson International Airport compiling a case for more nonstopsBy Jamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tucson Airport Authority officials are seeking help from Pima County, as well as local businesses, to determine how many travelers use Tucson International Airport.

The Airport Authority wants to work with the county government, businesses and tourism organizations to compile passenger information for airlines, with hopes of bringing more direct flights to Tucson.

Tucson International Airport loses about 4,000 people each day who either leave or fly into Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, and airport officials say more direct flights would keep travelers in Tucson.

Airport officials, along with a representative from an Oregon-based consulting company, made a presentation to the Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, asking county officials to provide information on which airlines employees use, where they are flying and how much they’re spending.

Airport officials hope to analyze the information and figure out how businesses and local governments can better utilize the local airport.

The information provided to the airlines would help prove there is a demand for more service, which could prompt the airlines to bring more routes to Tucson, they said.

“Businesses, government and air service foundations have the flexibility to help us develop the support we need in order to bring this service to Tucson,” said Jack Penning, director of market analysis for Sixel Consulting Group.

Tucson International Airport retains only about 68 percent of passengers who travel to and from the Tucson area, with 30 percent using Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix and 1 percent using Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Penning said.

If those outbound travelers would fly from Tucson, the airport could support up to 20 extra flights per day, he said.

“Any time someone flies out of Phoenix, they’re taking their money and spending it there instead of spending it here,” he said.

Penning said Tucson’s fares are comparable with other airports, but the lack of nonstop flights is driving more people toward Sky Harbor.

There is a huge local demand for direct flights to Washington, D.C., New York City and destinations in Mexico, he said.

The Board of Supervisors did not take action after the presentation, but county officials said they would work with the Airport Authority to help gather the information.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

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