This is a fun, interesting project but if you want to up the plausibility look for reasons why an alternate airport would offer an advantage. Here are potential advantages of an alternate airportl
(a) Alternate airport is significantly closer to large numbers of people than the conventional airport, especially well-off population with the propensity to travel. This works best in areas where traffic is especially bad.
A good example of this is Flint's success as a low-fare alternate for suburban Detroit as opposed to Toledo. DTW
is on the south/southwest side of metro Detroit, the same direction as Toledo, and that's not where the wealthier suburbs are. Metro Detroit has a couple million people in Oakland and Macomb counties on the north side of town which are higher income and about as close or closer to Flint than Detroit Metro.
(b) Conventional airport is especially difficult / hassle prone to navigate and the alternate is significantly easier.
If the conventional airport is relative uncrowded and easy to navigate, that makes it more difficult to sell an alternate. Be careful to not flatly assume the larger airport is always going to be a hassle and the smaller airport a breeze. Big airports can be lousy in terms of crowding beyond capacity, having to take shuttles and trains to cover longer distances between parking, check in, security and gate, longer security waits, etc. But small airports don't always have the infrastructure big ones do -- poor road access, tiny terminals, the inability to screen 150 people in a reasonable timeframe, etc.
(c) Conventional airport has high fares.
Fares are critical to success in this segment of the market, and it helps if they are high at the conventional airport. There is always, always danger the airlines at the conventional airport will match your fares, especially if they feel threatened. But if you're small enough to not put a big dent in their business it may not be a problem. If you can offer $59 one-way fares from Rockford to Orlando three times per week, United, American and Spirit probably won't go nuclear against you on their ORD
nonstops. If you fly three times per day from Cleveland Burke to Orlando for $59, you can expect United to match you dollar for dollar.
(d) Conventional airport has notoriously-high costs and fees
This can help you with a structural cost advantage over competitors and help you keep fares down . I'm not aware of a complete, comprehensive list of airport per-passenger costs (I'd love to see one!) but if you do a web search for specific airports you might find something if they are notably high or low. Sometimes new terminals -- like IND
-- cause per-passenger costs to be high. And at airports with low per-passenger costs such as MEM
, that makes it a notch more difficult to press a fare advantage when the competition at the conventional airport has cheap costs.
Not all of these necessarily have to be in place, but the more factors in place (especially if they are strong ones) the better chances an alternate will have success. Have fun!