PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- This week, representatives from fifteen different airlines are in town to meet with officials from thirty-five small to medium-sized airports, seeking to make connections that lead to additional service for their regions.
Paul Bradbury, director of the Portland International Jetport says the conference is a chance to showcase what the Jetport, which recently underwent a $75 million expansion, and the state have to offer airlines looking to add new routes to their service.
"We have the opportunity to get many airlines into Portland, Maine to really see the market," said Bradbury. "You know, get down and dirty and kick the tires of the Portland and Maine market."
He says with many airlines looking to cut costs, switching to larger planes and offering fewer flights, the competition between airports is at an all-time high.
"Every market in the country wants additional service, so we are competing against any market in the country on return on investment for the airline putting their very valuable asset into your market," he said.
"It is very competitive. You have to remember that an airplane is not a building, it can pick-up, and once it takes off, it never has to come back," explained Mark Sixel, president of Sixel Consulting Group, which helped organize the conference. "If it finds a community it can make more money in, that is where it is going to go."
Officials with the jetport are hopeful that they will welcome Southwest Airlines to the Pine Tree State in the near future. Southwest, the nation's largest domestic carrier, recently merged with Air Tran Airlines, which operates a Portland to Baltimore flight.
Bradbury says when Air Tran announced the flight between Portland and Baltimore, the service was expected to be seasonal, but a steady passenger count has allowed them to operate it year-round.
"We don't have firm dates for Portland yet," stated Bradbury. "We are still hopeful that it happens sooner rather than later."
"There is a lot more behind the scenes business that had to happen before every one of these stations gets transferred over, and every one of those take time," he added. "So overall, you have to set up a schedule and I'm sure they have an internal schedule to flow every new city into the Southwest brand."
"The hope is that, in the transition from Air Tran to Southwest, Portland stays on the route map, but it is not a given," explained Sixel. "So the airport has to work everyday in supporting Air Tran and Southwest and making sure that they stay in this community."
"Their fares are usually on average lower, but it is because of the business practices that they employ - only flying one size of jet, only to bigger communities - and the Portlands have always been left out," added Sixel.
Officials with the jetport hope that Southwest will land in Portland sometime soon, and not leave the roughly 1.7 million passengers that fly in to and out of the jetport each year high and dry.