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OKC Expansion (and Other Ambitious Airports)  
User currently offlinePhilTLL From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 27 posts, RR: 0
Posted (15 years 5 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 2617 times:

Here in OKC, they're planning to expand the airport from 16 to 25 gates with a new terminal wing. Some people are getting a bit ambitious and screaming "Expand it to at least 50! Be a real airport! Hub hub hub!" I've had to point out on the City Hall boards that OKC simply wouldn't make a good hub for the airlines that currently serve it (AA, UAL, DAL, NWA, TWA, CO, SWA). I even doubt whether it makes sense for the majors that don't serve it (AW, USA) or for regionals looking to expand to the southwest or southeast (Frontier, whatever). I do think OKC can fill the extra 9 gates, but I think expanding to 50 gates would leave 20 empty gates.

Your thoughts on OKC or other ambitious airports? I'm not really sure if other cities have such delusions of grandeur, since I don't check, but OKC is in the middle of a revamping (the MAPS downtown program, etc.)

20 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineDCA-ROCguy From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 4661 posts, RR: 31
Reply 1, posted (15 years 5 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 2565 times:

PhilTLL, you're offering needed wisdom to the city hall folks at OKC. How anyone familiar with the airline industry could entertain OKC's "Field of Dreams" brand of ambition is beyond me. The point of the 1987-90 consolidation binge (other than to create an oligopoly and fare-jacking power in medium and small markets) was to reduce costs and strengthen profitability.

Raleigh-Durham lured American in the heady late '80s with a new parallel 10,000 foot runway and the Triangle region's famous unbridled optimism. At the time Raleigh-Durham's metro population was about OKC's, it's probably 20 or 30 percent bigger now (huge growth area).

American ran up against a rule of airline hubs: A hub has to be able to support at least a third O & D traffic to be viable. US Airways' Pittsburgh hub languishes at around 21 million for that reason; that's what PIT can support. There are exceptions like O'Hare and Atlanta, but those are the mega-giants.

American thundered into RDU with an MD80 based hub fleet with around 100 departures a day plus a bunch of Eagle flights. For example, AA had three MD-80s daily between RDU and my hometown, Rochester NY (about the size of Tulsa). This was well beyond what RDU could support. Thus, American closed down the RDU hub in 1995.

But from the ashes of American rose Midway with a fleet based around the Canadair RJ (plus some F100s and 73G's). They even sublease part of the old American hub complex at RDU.

THis was much more in line with what RDU could support. Now Midway has three daily CRJ's from ROC to the RDU hub, and is thriving. Look for them to get snapped up by a major if they get attractive enough.

Back to your original point, I'd say something about the size of Midway is about as much as OKC could hope to support. And there'd better be someone with a well-funded and smart business plan in hand, and FAA approval, before OKC starts thinking about ramping up to 50 gates.


Need a new airline paint scheme? Better call Saul! (Bass that is)
User currently offlinePhilTLL From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (15 years 5 months 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 2543 times:


Thanks! I try - most people spouting off about the airport and about no one ever taking OKC seriously know little about the industry and its mechanisms. I'm fairly content with OKC at the level it is, at least until we have proven growth in economic sectors which would merit flights.

Perhaps with the recent downtown improvements we CAN manage to attract new businesses, but until then OKC is simply not a prime market for expansion. We already have 15+ flights daily to DFW as well as 5 N/S destinations on SWA, with a total of 16 N/S destinations (5 on DAL/Delta Connection, 5 on SWA, 2 on AA, 1 each on CO, UAL, NWA, TWA). We did have two options for ORD (not that I'd fly UAL _anywhere_) until UAL cut their ORD service.

You're spot-on with relating RDU to this - except we haven't made the mistake yet and God willing, our airport board will continue the logical course. OKCitians have been somewhat blindly optimistic lately, and they think we really are perceived as a small cowtown.

Now, the only airlines relatively similar to Midway which I can think of off-hand would be Frontier and maybe JetBlue (but I haven't investigated further), neither of which seem interested (nor should they be).

I do however wish we had a couple more majors, like AW and USA, for some extra options. I think OKC-East Coast markets might be somewhat underserved.

Anyway, thanks for your comments.



User currently offlineFlashmeister From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 2939 posts, RR: 6
Reply 3, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 2524 times:
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I seriously doubt that Frontier would consider OKC for anything but spoke flights. OKC is too close to DEN for it to be really useful to them, and besides - they're into growing DEN, not opening another hub...

Frontier chooses its battles very, very carefully, which accounts for its success.

User currently offlineSeasonedflyer From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 2513 times:

PHL and DCA....before you continue to dis OKC, try and remember the advantages that OKC provides:

- Dual runways in place for parallel operations
- Central geographic location
- Access to less congested air corridors

These are, of course, balanced (as you point out) by the lack of O&D at OKC. However, as I seem to recall, when a large hub airport was under consideration in the 70's for the Southwest, the FAA supported the building of that airport at OKC for the above reasons. The OKC city council at that time was not very visionary and nixed the investment and the airlines moved south, to what is now DFW.

I agree that economically OKC isn't the best idea for a hub, but from the FAA and an operational perspective, OKC is ideal. If any airline ever wanted to have a true connecting hub in the central U.S. (with little consideration to O&D), then OKC would have to be considered (as would MCI).

I suspect that airlines like Delta would much prefer to have their major hubs (like ATL), a little more centrally located than they are......it is very hard to operationally balance a schedule when the majority of your westbound flights are four or five times longer in cycle time than your eastbound flights. OKC has this advantage over the airports like RDU, ORF and CHS which would all love to be hubs, but are sited in geographically bad areas to support decent hub operations.

User currently offlineRIOJANEIRO From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 121 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 2507 times:

Ive always wondered about why OKC isn't a hub either. It has a fairly well-sized population, fabulous geographical location and a potential market. What is the pop. of OKC anyways? I simply don't understand why such cities like Austin, TX and others get more daily flights than OKC even though they are smaller. I just don't understand how those Oklahomans get around the country.

User currently offlineJeb From United States of America, joined Oct 2007, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 2487 times:

I live in Greensboro, NC and we are getting ready to greatly expand as well. The Eastern-US hub for FedEx is moving in soon and we are building a parallel runway (10,000' I think) and a massive structure for their sorting facilities will also be built. I have a question...do you think that this expansion will result in any increase in major commercial service? I can't think of any airline missing a major east-coast hub, but GSO is perfect. Many folks travel to RDU or CLT for service, why should the opposite not be true as well? We have plenty of people here for a sub-hub. Continental tried it and failed, but times are now different. I think we would be great competition for ATL or CLT. Am I rambling...your thoughts?


User currently offlinePhilTLL From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 2466 times:

The thing with OKC is that despite its excellent location and decent-sized population (1.0M metro), the potential market isn't necessarily there. Austin has had a bunch of flights added lately because of their economy and the tech sector moving in there. OKC has never had that sort of sector. Also, Austin's population is bigger than ours now. Oh well.

OKC actually gets pretty good coverage, mostly from Southwest and Delta. We manage to get around.

User currently offlineDsmav8r From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 579 posts, RR: 6
Reply 8, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 2469 times:

There are similar plans here in Omaha... Beginning this summer, there will be a construction of a new south terminal. With this expansion, OMA will go from 21 to 40 gates. Look for Midwest Express and Southwest to really beef up their operations.

There will also be an expansion of the current GA runway from 4,060ft to 9,500ft w/ILS. This means that OMA will be able to have 3 simultaneously active ILS runways (14R, 14L, and 18).

Aric Thalman
Omaha, NE

To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love aviation, the sky is home
User currently offlinePhilTLL From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 2457 times:

Yeah, see, we don't have Midwest Express in OKC. Oh well.   Midwest Express would, however, remain a possibility with the gate expansion here. I think they'd find quite a niche. Perhaps, say, US Airways could jump in as well for some East Coast routes that are underserved here. I think people would be willing to fly to CLT to skip dealing with DFW.

Omaha's expansion sounds quite a bit bigger than our plan - I don't know Omaha's current situation, so I can't speak as to its necessity, but if what you say is true it sounds like a good plan.

User currently offlineDCA-ROCguy From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 4661 posts, RR: 31
Reply 10, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 2454 times:

Jeb--congratulations to GSO on landing Fedex's east coast ops. I hadn't heard about that. Cargo airlines have more flexibility in locating hubs because the load doesn't have to get there til the next day; thus location and high margins from O&D traffic aren't needs. It's all high margin because the sender is paying for overnight as opposed to ground shipping.

Thus, Cologne-Bonn (CGN) has prospered as UPS's European hub although it cannot support transatlantic pax flights or serve as a regional pax hub (much to chagrin of CGN city fathers). And of course Louisville and Memphis, etc here.

SeasonedFlyer--history weighs too strongly against your arguments. Passenger hubs can't be based simply upon operational suitability, or Indianapolis and Columbus (which have widely-spaced parallel runways like OKC) would already be serving as massive relief hubs for ORD and DTW. And Cincinnati's declining business economy has hurt Delta's operations there. American's RDU story of course played out similarly at BNA--and both cities are hot growth markets, like Austin which you cite. O&D traffic is needed or a major hub simply won't take.

What are the components of Oklahoma City's economy? The tech economy in Austin generates lots of air travel. The businesses in OKC may well not generate the kind of volume that Austin's businesses do. And OKC (unlike my poor fare-gouged ROC) has Southwest, like AUS. The size of the city matters less than its ability to support O&D traffic. The composition of the city's economy and its growth trends will determine what level of O&D the city supports.

Phil, what kind of efforts has the OKC local govt made to attract airlines? Do they make targeted pitches to carriers based upon discussions with business, and studies? Do local officials aggressively woo airlines? Midex and US Airways are good possibilities for OKC as you note. Have local officials prepared figures, do they press the case firmly?

OKC officials can't just say what a great hub airport OKC would be because of its fine layout and facilities. They need to show figures and trends about specific traffic patterns. Airline planners are very tough customers these days.


Need a new airline paint scheme? Better call Saul! (Bass that is)
User currently offlinePhilTLL From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (15 years 5 months 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 2441 times:

Oh, no, no, it's not the OFFICIALS saying anything about hubbing in OKC. It's the overzealous citizens. The officials, especially the Airport Advisory Board, are being cautious about expanding the airport too fast. As far as I know, the most likely option for expansion is SWA (we even have one of their reservations bases), and the most likely (well, most reasonable) candidates for new entry are Frontier, MidEx, and US Airways. I think these factors make the gates we're adding an excellent idea, but 40+ gates would be ridiculous.

I've seen people say that we need something like SAT or AUS - but both serve markets that are different from ours. SAT is simply bigger in population, plus they have international flights on Aeromexico and Mexicana and a much bigger SWA schedule. AUS is also bigger, and they have the aforementioned tech-sector economy.

User currently offlineSeasonedflyer From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (15 years 5 months 19 hours ago) and read 2428 times:

Regardless of the facilities at OKC and the population size of the Metro area, I doubt OKC will significantly increased air service in the near future.

Look at Delta....they only fly to OKC non-stop from ATL three times a day (TUL has more service). That tells me that the financials for OKC to the east aren't very strong. That also says that no way will OKC ever see US Airways because if Delta can't support additional flights with their cost advantage, then US Air isn't going to enter the same market with their industry leading CASM.

Also, I think Delta just downgraded their OKC to CVG service to 50 seat CRJ's. That tells me that the the OKC to northeast market isn't particularly strong either.

That brings us to the dilemma that every city with an airport has.....do you want Southwest style low-cost service with low-yield (i.e. less desireable) destinations (although with many departures a day) or do you want a major airline (e.g. Delta) with fewer departures but one-stop connecting service to anywhere in the world.

It is very hard to have both and OKC is a close to the best balance possible (now). Add another low-cost carrier or increase the costs to the mainline carriers and OKC could very well see a decline in its available air service.

User currently offlineTom in NO From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 7194 posts, RR: 31
Reply 13, posted (15 years 5 months 12 hours ago) and read 2417 times:

A recent aerial photo I have of OKC shows some preliminary work already in place for an terminal extension and additional concourse added to the west of the existing building. Hopefully, more parking will also be included.

By the way, long live the observation deck at OKC!!! My 2-year old got a kick out of it when we took a sack lunch up there last March while on our way to Denver.

Tom in NO (at MSY)

"The criminal ineptitude makes you furious"-Bruce Springsteen, after seeing firsthand the damage from Hurricane Katrina
User currently offlinePhilTLL From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (15 years 5 months 12 hours ago) and read 2409 times:

Yep - they've already started the third wing of the terminal, to be labeled Terminal A - we have a "B" & "C" but no "A". Don't ask why; I don't know.  

The observation deck is quite cool - it had to be redone after a huge storm blew out all its windows and caved a portion of its roof, and in the process they took away the 10-cent admission charge. Yay! It's a pretty good place to take pictures.

I'm curious, though - what routing got you from MSY-DEN through OKC?  

CVG-OKC has always been 50-seat CRJs, as far as I know.

User currently offlineTom in NO From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 7194 posts, RR: 31
Reply 15, posted (15 years 5 months 12 hours ago) and read 2407 times:

Glad to hear the observation deck was fixed.

As for the routing, it was, ummm....I-10/I-49/I-20 to Dallas, I-35 to OKC, ICT, to Salina, and I-70 to DEN.   We drove this time!!!

Tom in NO (at MSY)

"The criminal ineptitude makes you furious"-Bruce Springsteen, after seeing firsthand the damage from Hurricane Katrina
User currently offlineAA767Boy From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 101 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (15 years 5 months 10 hours ago) and read 2393 times:


Like phil, I live in OKC!! I, like him believe that the expansion will leave extra gates!! some kid at school that thinks he know everything about airlines said that okc was going internatioanl ! HA! not happening. OKC would be a great place for frontier to play into i believe! OKC is one of the 10 largest airports area wise! I think also like Phil that with the expansion AWA, USAIR, and MIDEX will move on in! i would love to see USAIR in OKC! If you would like more info on this subject got to www.flyokc.com it is a very nice webpage. Phil, You ever go spotting in okc?I do about once every month!

User currently offlineTrintocan From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2000, 3297 posts, RR: 4
Reply 17, posted (15 years 5 months 3 hours ago) and read 2379 times:

I do not know much about MidWest airports but I could talk about my own POS. In the '90s there was talk about building a new terminal to replace the present structure, which dates from 1962, because it was seen to be unattractive to visitors and too small. The plan would have seen it with 8 jetways and a modular concept which could have been expanded later, plus eventually a new runway. This Project Pride flopped without ever getting off the ground.

In the last 2 years the project was revived by the new government of Trinidad and is being touted as the hub of the Caribbean. It features 14 gates with 12 jetways, many new facilities and a new postal office and catering facility (which was built before the terminal).

Now the reality; POS had a heady bit of traffic in 1999-2000 with BWIA expanding its services with a regional feeder, BWee Express, serving neighbouring islands and opening up a new service to IAD. Air Caribbean, its home-grown rival, started up regional flights too in addition to its primary domestic services and even expanded to MIA. American came twice daily, Air Canada a few times weekly and other smaller regional carriers made their presences felt. In July 2000 came Air Jamaica from Kingston with its own expansion plans and thus, it seemed, the range of airlines here justified the new airport.

Now what has happened? Air Caribbean went under in October, Air Jamaica's Trini fling flopped and it has left POS and thus 15 daily flights have disappeared. BWIA's monopoly has become strongly established here. While POS does have a lot of O&D traffic with the large home market and the correspondingly large visiting friends and relatives market (VFR), these sectors are strongly loyal to BWIA and so the local scene is not encouraging to new airlines. There is little tourist activity in Trinidad and while some, including BWIA, insist that POS remains the hub to Tobago and hence the leisure market there justifies the new POS, the fact is that connecting in POS for TAB has always been seen as a hassle and direct flights to TAB are preferred. BA's success in TAB attests to this, alas, the small local market there has been a impediment to major expansion of airline services there.

So the new POS continues, behind schedule and with several overruns in cost and with an uncertain future. It seems as though only BW's will be lining up there, along with the AA and AC flights, while the smaller Barbados airport will see those heavies line up and stack up (I saw 4 Britannia 767s there last month at one time). In any case BGI's wider range of air services has made it the Eastern Caribbean hub of choice.

Enough said.


Hop to it, fly for life!
User currently offlineFlyPNS1 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 7100 posts, RR: 23
Reply 18, posted (15 years 5 months 3 hours ago) and read 2377 times:

A small note on OKC, DL announced today that they will be adding a third daily CRJ flight between OKC and CVG on Jan. 31. It's not much but it does indicate that the OKC market must be doing decently.

User currently offlinePhilTLL From United States of America, joined Jan 2001, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (15 years 4 months 4 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 2367 times:

I try to spot occasionally, but the aircraft don't change much.   The observation deck is terrific for pictures, though.

Oh, and one more thing...


User currently offlineContrails From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 1845 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (15 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 2342 times:

Having grown up in the Tulsa area the I am amused by this. It sounds just like the folks at OKC to try and make themselves into a hub.

Most other airports are "International", but when Will Rogers was built they had to call it "World".

That about says it all.

Flying Colors Forever!
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