Air service presentation indicates air travel market at GVA greatly improved

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A presentation for local tourism and travel stakeholders was provided by Mike Mooney, managing partner of Volaire Aviation Consulting, at Landings Restaurant at the airport on Thursday, June 6.

Mooney, on retainer with Greenbrier Valley Airport (GVA), is the person who advocated on behalf of Greenbrier County Airport Authority (GVAA) for SkyWest to service the airport, replacing Via Airlines, which, he said, “is no longer in the airline business.” Called “the godfather of central air service” by airport manager Stephen Snyder, Mooney arrived from Colorado to discuss where the airport is at present with SkyWest in place after one year of service, and where the airport is going in the future and what possible options are available in terms of flights, hubs and seating capacity.

Volaire represents 75 percent of the nation’s airports, serving as consultants between airports and airlines. Mooney, who specializes in small community service covering 25 percent of the consulting service, said since SkyWest came on board, GVA is operating without requiring community subsidy funding for the first time in years. SkyWest has escalated customer passengership on flights at GVA to more than 20,000 between April 2018 and May 2019. GVA ranks fourth in customer numbers behind Clarksburg and ahead of Morgantown. Traffic is up 8 percent, boosting United Airlines’ numbers to 21 percent of the market share in the state. Mooney said the Chicago market to Lewisburg reflects 33 percent of GVA’s travelers from April to December of last year, and that’s starting from scratch.

All in all, Mooney said that SkyWest and United would not have agreed to come to Greenbrier Valley without having assessed the risk factors, and so understood the market was there and could sustain itself. “Greenbrier Valley is where it should be in terms of air service,” he said.

Mooney’s power point presentation included images of the departure points from the two hubs SkyWest flies to from GVA – Chicago and D.C. The flight routes from O’Hare and Dulles extend to all points across the U.S., yielding visual evidence for the solid effects of GVA’s national coverage. “If [an airport initiates] service in a direction, travel will be generated in that direction,” is a quote Mooney uses to show the power of good planning. He adds that good planning is the essential factor, because if, once a plan is made, should it fail, there is no going back again from that failure.

Stakeholders attending the meeting were attentive to Mooney’s presentation points in considering the next growth step for Greenbrier Valley’s future air travel plans. They included Greenbrier resort VP Greg Furlong and Sporting Club VP Larry Klein; Chamber of Commerce board member Mike Kidd, Kara Dense and Valerie Pritt with the Greenbrier County Convention & Visitors Bureau; Greenbrier County commissioners Tammy Shifflett-Tincher and Mike McClung; and along with Snyder, representing the airport, was GVAA board member Mike Rose.