Mobile's Downtown Airport at Brookley Field is one step closer to becoming a passenger airport, following the release of a feasibility study. In short, the study finds that moving passenger traffic from Mobile Regional Airport to Brookley Field makes a lot of sense.
Few cities have an airport so close to downtown, but Mobile has one near the heart of the city. Its runway can land the biggest planes, and it has far more convenient access to the Eastern Shore and our Gulf Coast beaches than Mobile Regional Airport. Sadly, the downtown airport hasn't been used for passenger services. Mobilians have talked about it for years, but there hasn't been much action toward actually making the move until recently.
This new study will allow the Mobile Airport Authority to move ahead with a master plan that would eventually see passengers services moved to Brookley and freight services (like UPS and FedEx) out to Mobile Regional. Basically, the roles for each airport would be reversed.
This is big news for our region and the area's economy. The Mobile Airport Authority says that 40% of people who should be using Mobile's airport are using other airports. If you live on the Eastern Shore, it's at least as easy to get over to Pensacola than it is to get to West Mobile via Airport Blvd. If you're heading to the beaches, the airport in West Mobile does not offer convenient access.
But a passenger airport in Downtown Mobile instantly becomes the most convenient airport for the greatest number of people visiting and living on the Gulf Coast. That's sure to attract more airlines, more service, and lower fares. That's also certain to be another major draw for the region's economic growth. Mobile's port is already one of the nation's busiest, and the city is easily accessed by two major interstate highways. A convenient passenger airport makes it easy for those businesses to connect with their corporate HQ.
This. Is. Big!
There's a good chance that Via Air, a new low cost airline that recently started non-stop Mobile to Orlando-Sanford service, will move to Brookley as soon as 2019. Eventually, all passenger services would move to Brookley.
So Via Air is a start, but that's not what we should be focused on. Like cruise ships, airlines come and go. They start service, they drop service, they go out of business or retrench with a different business model. It should be noted that Via Air has only recently started flying scheduled flight services in just the last few years, and they are by no means established on a level of a JetBlue or United. I hope they are successful, and that their Mobile flights in particular are successful. But if we're three years down the road, and Via Air has already come and gone from Brookley, that won't mean this move isn't the right idea. Because this is a major opportunity for the city and region. We must embrace it, and the (much needed) growth of our city that will inevitably result. Mobile has long been called, almost disparagingly, the "City of Perpetual Potential." That is without doubt still true. But if you haven't been paying attention, you may not have noticed that Mobile keeps inching closer and closer to reaching its full potential.
Moving passenger services to Brookley is a major step in the right direction.