Commonwealth Journal

November 28, 2012

Airport survey confirms potential

142,166 would use air services

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

Results of a regional survey of airline travelers announced Tuesday indicate a robust market in this Southern Kentucky area for commuter airline service at Lake Cumberland Regional Airport.
Released by the Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation, the survey indicates a potential annual enplanement of 142,166 passengers who would use airline service in and out of the Somerset airport.
Both Martin Shearer, executive director of the development foundation and Luke B. Schmidt, president of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, project consultant, said a airline company is interested in providing commuter service at the local airport.
“It’s like recruiting an industrial prospect,” said Schmidt. “Name of the interested commuter service is confidential at this point.” He said there is still a lot of work to do, “ ... dotting i’s and crossing t’s ... like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.”
Schmidt noted the survey’s two strategic goals:
• Recruit a regional airline that is aligned with a major carrier such as American, Delta or US Airways.
• Establish service to a major connecting hub.
Schmidt said the interested airline service meets these objectives. The company has service in several small markets and  “ ... has been around a long time,” Shearer revealed. He said the company is interested in establishing connection with a major airline hub and flying out of Somerset.
“We have made a lot of progress toward establishing a major market profile,” said Schmidt. The survey’s findings include the following information:
• Responding companies reported booking a total of 312 round trips by air each month.
• Approximately 612 visitors fly to the region each month to meet with responding companies.
• Total number of round trips by air to/from the region with responding companies equals 923 each month.
• Lexington is currently the preferred airport for flyers in Somerset, London and Corbin.
• Hours required to drive (one-way) to the primary airport in Lexington averaged 1.5 hours.
• Ninety-one percent of responding companies will use the service if a major connecting hub with reasonable fares is provided.
Although a commuter airline service out of Lake Cumberland Regional Airport would ultimately serve 16 counties in Southern Kentucky, Schmidt said the survey focused on the Somerset, London and Corbin areas. The reason, he said, is because these communities are the core of the proposed market with a combined population of 384,000. Schmidt met personally with several large employers in Somerset, London and Corbin areas.
A Florida-based commuter airline operated out of Lake Cumberland Regional Airport, first to Nashville and then to Washington, D.C., for a little more than two years. It was subsidized with about $900,000 obtained by Congressman Hal Rogers from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $100,000 in local matching funds. No sustaining local source of funding developed before the federal funds were exhausted and the airline shut down February 19, 2010.
The survey to reestablish commuter air service out of Lake Cumberland Regional Airport is an effort by Somerset-Pulaski Development Foundation, Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, Somerset-Pulaski Convention & Visitors Bureau, Corbin Economic Development Agency, London/Laurel County Chamber of Commerce, local airport board and Somerset and Pulaski County governments