Home » Op-ed | Time to work together to improve Louisville’s air service

Op-ed | Time to work together to improve Louisville’s air service

By Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer


With over $11 billion in capital projects either under way or planned, the Louisville region is on the move. Thanks to a booming economy, a great convention scene, and a thriving tourism industry, the city is attracting about 24 million tourist visits a year.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer

And in partnership among Louisville, Lexington and Southern Indiana, our Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) is growing exports and foreign direct investment in the 22-county region around our two major metropolitan areas.

In other words, we have much to celebrate. And the success we are having has highlighted that we can achieve even more wins by increasing more direct flights to more key economic centers.

Data shows us that we need to establish new direct flights to key markets on the coasts to help local businesses expand, lure new business to our city, expand bourbonism, and support convention and tourism planners, filmmakers and others who want to grow in Louisville.

A new non-profit, Louisville Regional Airlift Development (LRAD), is working with the Louisville Regional Airport Authority (LRAA) to help get us to new destinations and bring new business and visitors to Louisville.

Business and civic leaders formed LRAD to incentivize new nonstop air service from Louisville to key markets on both coasts, like our top underserved markets of Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle.

This effort is an economic development project, plain and simple. New nonstop air service will help to retain existing jobs and create new ones – not only in Louisville, but in the surrounding region, including Southern Indiana, Elizabethtown/Fort Knox and Central Kentucky.

This is a necessary step, and it needs to be taken soon. Research indicates that several hundred thousand passengers a year who could use SDF instead drive to other regional airports – because they have more nonstop destinations and more departing flights. By increasing destinations and the number of flights, we will gain more business and opportunities for our residents.

Another way to look at it: Louisville is the nation’s 44th largest MSA, but our MSA ranks 57th in passenger enplanements. We must and can do better.

Recruiting new air service in today’s world is every bit as competitive as recruiting new industry to a region. Many communities, like Louisville, want new air service to help grow their economy.

To stand out from the crowd and attract those flights, communities must demonstrate the need through data, and offer competitive proposals, including LRAA/airport-provided incentives such as temporary waivers on fees and marketing/promotional support. Increasingly, communities are providing additional incentives, such as a temporary, dedicated Minimum Revenue Guarantee (MRG) fund to support the new flights while they build to sustainable, profitable levels.

Though the MRG strategy is new to Louisville, it has been successfully used to develop new nonstop flights to the San Francisco Bay Area from cities like Columbus and Indianapolis.

This is where LRAD fits in – as a separate entity, LRAD can raise and spend funds for the MRG strategy, as a complement to what LRAA can do under FAA rules. Together, we are making this happen.

We invite you to join the LRAD team by making two commitments:

  • Support the new flights when we secure them. If you’re business leader, sign a binding pledge to use the new flights facilitated by LRAD for the first two years when traveling to the Greater Los Angeles and Boston regions. If you’re a citizen traveler, make a commitment of your own to fly the new flights.
  • Make a financial pledge to help build our MRG funds. Donations large and small will help demonstrate our community’s commitment. State and local funds are already committed to this economic development effort. Learn more by visiting the LRAD website www.lradinc.com.

New air service at SDF can be a regional game-changer – new commerce, new jobs, and new opportunities. Join us!