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Airport Authority Considering Adding Flights to Gainesville Airport

An airline industry consultant presented in downtown Gainesville on Thursday morningabout the prospect of bringing new flight options to the Gainesville Regional Airport. 

Martin Kammerman, the director of air service strategy and development for Oregon-based Sixel Consulting Group Inc., presented to about 20 people at the Thomas Center.

Kammerman will work with airport officials and airlines to bring new routes to the city, though there is no official timeline for deployment.

Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority partnered with the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce and the University of Florida to bring in Kammerman to investigate whether adding additional flights to the airport is a viable option.

Convincing an airline to offer flights at an airport is easier said than done, said Laura Aguiar, the airport's spokeswoman. Routes to destinations like New York and Washington, D.C. are what residents want most, she said, but there are challenges to bringing direct routes to those locations. 

Aguiar said airports offer space for airlines, similar to how a mall would offer space to department stores. Different airlines have different business models, and what Gainesville offers does not always align with the chosen business model of every airline, she said.

Kammerman highlighted some of the obstacles for securing routes to destinations like New York and D.C. Airports in those locations don't have as many connecting flight options as Atlanta’s and Charlotte’s airports, which already have Gainesville flights that are serviced by Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

“It’s not something we couldn’t overcome, but it’s definitely a challenge,” said Kammerman, who spent about 25 years working for US Airways and United Airlines. Routes to cities like Dallas and Chicago would be more viable options to pursue, he said.

Kammerman's company works with both airport and airline officials to develop business strategies and then launch and monitor their performance, according to its website.

The benefit of securing routes to more destinations is economic, said Staci Bertrand, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce’s director of industry development, adding that it’s “of key importance when we talk about business travel.”

“Increasing the number of direct flights is key to many of our companies here as they grow,” Bertrand said.

Gainesville's District 4 city commissioner, Adrian Hayes-Santos, supports the expansion.

“I think a convenient, affordable service is essential for Gainesville’s future,” he said. “I think there are steps that the city commission could take to really bring the community together and find creative ways that we can add service.”

Kammerman’s company was paid $5,000 to create and present a strategic plan to the consortium. Aguiar said if the company is successful in arranging meetings between Gainesville Regional Airport officials and prospective airlines, there will be additional fees.

TJ Pyche is a reporter for WUFT News. He can be reached at tpyche@ufl.edu or 352-392-6397 or 352-392-NEWS. Follow him at @tjpyche.