What the heck are you even talking about? "Thats not how the free market works?" Free market means the airlines can serve where they want, but on the flip side customers can also do the same.
Right, we agree with that. When MHT stopped offering airlines the incentive to do business in MHT, they went somewhere else and so did the customers.
You argument about shopping local is equally flawed. People shop local to support the local economy and local jobs, as opposed to going to Walmart, its not about having the same product. Many people understand the benefits and importance associated with paying a little more and buying local.
But here we disagree. That mentality is why so many of our local businesses went out of business. Some ideological people will do what you claim but the majority of us agree to pay more to shop local only if the local business can supply the product that we want or better. I'm not going to buy a crap product from a local business if I can get a better product from somewhere else. That's what happened to MHT, they stopped offering a product that people wanted.
its not about incentives in the monetary form. those are regulated by the FAA, and in fact Massport actually does not offer any incentives at all (at least in recent years). Airlines noticed that passengers would drive to BOS which reduced their "incentive" to serve MHT.
MHT did not do anything to change their product, the airlines did that, its not the MHT management either, this story can be told at nearly half of the small airports throughout the country by airports who work hard to even just maintain what they have.
Simply stated: Airlines. Don't. Care. About. Communities They Serve.
They care about $$$ only and will put the seats where they make the most money.
If MHT wants more service, its needs to be worthwhile for the airline, aka people paying more to fly out of MHT. Its a simple as that. BOS has the advantage of economies of scale for the airline operation, so it needs to me made up y either lower costs, or a fare premium. When service was reduced (as people drove to BOS) it made it hard for airports like PVD/MHT to reduce their costs to keep that equilibrium.
PVD bottomed out a few years ago allowing for some traction to be made in the cost equation, and as traffic and congestion increases in Boston, it helps made the case for the fare premium, hence the recent developments.
There are some old sayings like "put your money where you mouth is" or "vote with your feet" that es extremely true for small community air service.
Anyone who complains about local air service and regularly willingly uses another airport, loses the ability to criticize, and are proving the airlines case in reducing service. Think of it like voting, your individual vote might not make a difference, but they can add up.