Bangor International Airport plans topic of annual MBTA Holiday Meeting
It was the kind of night that plays havoc with travel plans.
Heavy snow and ice blanketed much of the state, canceling flights and putting snowplows out on the road. The conditions did not daunt MBTA members attending the organization’s annual Holiday Meeting at the Black Bear Inn in Orono on December 11. The MBTA was privileged to have one local legislator and one former legislator in attendance. Representative Emily Cain of Orono, attended, only a week before being named House Chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee. Also in attendance was former Representative Charles “Dusty” Fisher, a former House chair of the Transportation Committee and long-time friend of the MBTA.
The meeting program, titled “Flight Plan: Weathering turbulence & finding opportunity in the passenger air travel market,” encountered its own weather-related challenges when one of the presenters – Portland Inter-national Jetport Marketing Manager Gregory Hughes, had to cancel due to the weather. Luckily, Bangor International’s Rebecca Hupp, the other scheduled presenter, was local, and able to make the event.
Hupp spoke about the challenges facing the aviation industry, including tightening competition among commercial air carriers that have them closely scrutinizing their routes and regional service. Hupp gave the assembled MBTA members and friends a brief history of the airport, from its days as a private airfield to its conversion to government service during World War II. She also talked about how the city of Bangor assumed control of the former Air Force Base and revitalized it. The city has brought in commercial and freight carriers and established the airfield as a stopover for U.S. troops on their way to and from service abroad. Today the airport is served by five commercial carriers, including Allegiant Air, Continental Airlines, Delta, Northwest Airlink and U.S. Airways.
Hupp dispelled some long-held myths about the airport. She said that the airport is not responsible for fare levels, and that airport costs have little to do with passenger ticket costs. She also said the myth that Bangor’s operating costs are high is not justified. The average cost per passenger is just $3.06, well below that of other regional airports it size.
Hupp described the airport’s construction plans, including a $3.97 million expansion and renovation of the existing terminal and the $2.5 million upcoming reconstruction of the apron. That will include 23,400 square yards of aircraft parking. She also outlined the many challenges facing the industry in the years ahead, from fluctuating fuel costs, the poor economy and changes in demand for business and leisure travel. She said the regional airport had many strengths that would serve it well in the market: strong local support for the service its carriers offer; favorable exchange rates with Canada; an expanding year-round demand for air travel from the city; and strong performance in key “gateway” markets.
Hupp’s presentation – and the chance to share holiday cheer with their fellow MBTA members – brought 100 members and friends to the meeting at the Black Bear Inn in Orono. MBTA President Greg Dore served as the evening’s emcee.
In his opening remarks, Dore looked back on a successful two-year run for the organization that included helping to secure more than $500 million in funding for roads, bridges, rail and other transportation. He urged members to continue their support for transportation investment in 2009, as the MBTA works to gain support for increased funding both at the state and federal levels with the debate of the upcoming federal reauthorization.
Dore also announced the winners of the MBTA SuperRaffle. Five hundred tickets were sold, raising $17,000 for the Educational Foundation, which awards transportation scholarships to Maine students. Ken Grondin won the grand prize – a $7,000 trip to a location of his choice anywhere in the world. His cousin and past MBTA president Phil Grondin, Jr. sold the winning ticket two years in a row. Last year, Phil’s sister Michelle was the grand prize winner.
Dore also awarded the top prize for the annual Membership Committee contest to Eric Ritchie of The Lane Construction Corporation – a $500 L. L. Bean gift certificate – for recruiting three new corporate members and four individual members for the MBTA. Congratulations Eric and our other winners!