ALAN TURNER: Farewell to the orange and blue of Southwest Airlines

Opening Day for New Terminal at Dallas Love FieldAs we reported previously, Southwest Airlines has left Jackson for greener pastures. Most of us in Jackson are probably sorry to see those orange and blue planes fly away and not return, because it’s bound to limit our travel options, potentially increase costs, and generally take away some measure of convenience.  A great airport is essential to the growth and prosperity of any market, and Jackson is no exception.

Even before the loss of Southwest, however, there were clearly underlying challenges with respect to our airport, as my own experience attests.

I’ve made several air trips in the past 9 months, and none of them were from Jackson. On the search tabs for the online travel site I use, there is one option which shows me the fares and schedules from “nearby airports.” Utilizing that option, on two of my trips, I chose to fly out of Gulfport. Why? Because the airfare was approximately half the cost of basically the same schedule from Jackson. In one case, I saved more than $450; in the other case, it was close to $500 less from Gulfport. For another trip, I discovered that I could save $400 by flying from Monroe, La.

 The savings don’t stop there. Long-term parking in both Gulfport and Monroe was more than $30 less for a week than parking in Jackson. Furthermore, having rented cars frequently at the Jackson airport, I can attest that the airport fees and taxes have gone up in the past couple of years. Way up.

Now, it’s certainly not convenient to have to drive 2 or 3 hours to catch a flight, but for a savings of as much as $500 plus low parking costs, many of us will opt to make the drive. If you’re flying as a couple, the savings could be as much as $1,000. That obviously makes up for a lot of inconvenience.

We’re not pointing this information out from a critical perspective, but rather to ask “why?” We fully understand that there are serious issues confronting Jackson, and that includes the airport. But the problem is: if we can’t be competitive with other markets, what does that mean for the long term?

I’ve pointed out in other columns that the cost of living in Jackson, or perhaps I should say, in the Jackson suburban areas, is not low. Comparable homes cost more in many areas here than they do in similar suburban communities in Atlanta, Dallas and Memphis. Food costs more at some of the suburban Jackson supermarkets than it does in other states, and even within our own state. Plus, we tax food and many other states do not.

We are bullish on Mississippi, a great state with manifold resources such as adequate water, some of the best agricultural land in North America, a great coastal region and port facilities, great people and much more. Jackson lies at the hub of the state for transportation, bisected by two major interstate highways, and we sit in a great geographic location convenient to the Southeast, Texas and the Midwest.

Alan Turner

Alan Turner

But with all of that, still the challenges remain. If we can’t compete effectively with other markets, they’ll wind up capturing ground that should belong to us. None of us wants to see that happen.

If you have thoughts or ideas on how any of our challenges can be met, we’d love to hear from you.

» Contact MBJ publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com

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