Mesa Gateway Airport Commercial Airlines
Mesa Gateway airport currently has just one commercial carrier, Allegiant Air.
Spirit Airlines had signed on as Mesa Gateway airport’s second airline in early 2012, with Frontier Airlines adding some experimental seasonal flights that fall. Both pulled out by mid-2013.
Nonetheless, airport officials report that Mesa Gateway airport’s passenger numbers have increased — largely thanks to Allegiant’s expanding portfolio, now up to 38 non-stop destinations.
“(Allegiant) handled over 1.3 million passengers last year, an increase of 4 percent over 2014,” O’Neill said. “And this May was the highest passenger-activity May in the history of the airport. Even when Frontier and Spirit combined with Allegiant, they weren’t able to achieve the record number of passengers that went through the airport in May 2016.”
Still, the Mesa Gateway airport doesn’t deny it’s “aggressively looking for other airlines that are interested in coming and providing services for the East Valley and greater Phoenix area” through industry conferences and other outreach.
“The Number 1 goal handed down from our board of directors is to increase air service,” O’Neill said. “As the population continues to grow and as the business community continues to grow, I think there will be both more demand and more of a story to tell to airlines about why they should be at Gateway.”
Specifically, Gateway has been in talks with Elite Airways, a charter service that has moved toward more traditional scheduled flights in recent years.
Elite last year planned to offer service from Gateway to San Diego — a move that sparked tension with Allegiant, given the incentives Gateway was willing to offer Elite — but later decided the route would be too expensive, O’Neill said.
Elite and Gateway officials have since discussed service to other California cities, as well as Fort Collins, Colo., he said.
Mesa Gateway airport’s continued growth and expansion eventually will spur development in the greater airport area.
But not every type of project is compatible with an airport.
Mesa’s Falcon Field — a general-aviation airport that for years has tried to manage skirmishes between one of its flight schools and its residential neighbors — offers an example of what can happen when planning officials fail to create a buffer zone for airport noise and operations.
“Airports can be good neighbors, when we have a chance to work proactively with nearby communities to lay out a plan for appropriate land uses,” O’Neill said. “That’s exactly what Gateway is trying to do right now: update our land-use compatibility plan to protect both the airport and those communities.”
The airport has hosted five public-information meetings to get feedback from southeast Valley residents. Next, Gateway staff will meet with planning and zoning officials to ensure adjacent municipalities are on the same page.
The airport also is working to finalize a new strategic plan that will outline ways to increase air service; invest in “people, capital and operational assets”; attract commercial development; differentiate Gateway’s brand; build infrastructure; and develop regional tourism, according to airport spokesman Brian Sexton.
“We’ve gone deep into the ranks of our employees and the people who work on the airport, and we’ve invited them to really drill down into those six strategic goals and identify initiatives and programs that will allow us to create a tactical plan to achieve those in the long run,” O’Neill said. “That will be a living document that will help guide improvements, development and communication at the airport for the next three, five and 10 years.”
The board is expected to review the plan at its Sept. 20 meeting.