Saturday, October 02, 2004

Life in Non-hub America

Living in non-hub America can be a pain in the neck - at least when one wants to fly to another non-hub destination. Recently, I wanted to travel from Tulsa to Springfield, Illinois - about 100 miles NE of St. Louis. When I checked Travelocity and other Internet travel sites I discovered the least expensive flights for this 500-mile trip were $780 roundtrip. And to get to Springfield I would have to go via airports in Minnesota, Texas or Tennessee! I checked to see what it would cost to fly just to St. Louis. It cost $720. Then I checked to see what a ticket from St. Louis to Springfield would cost. $740! - to travel 100 miles!

I checked with Greyhound bus and it was about $200 RT - but it meant catching the bus in the middle of the night. I ended up renting a car for a weekend rate of $50 and driving from my inlaws home in Tulsa to Springfield and back. Took more time but saved me about $700. I just wasn't going to pay almost $800 to go to Illinois when I can get flights to London and back for the same amount.

Northeast Oklahomans used to be able to fly direct to St Louis on TWA until American Airlines gobbled up TWA and downsized St Louis operations. There are currently no direct flights from Tulsa to St Louis thanks to the airlines. American says they plan on adding back a daily flight between Tulsa and St. Louis on Trans States Airlines subcarrier in January. I fear this will be one of those cramped propeller jobs.

In the last 20 years the airlines have done more to kill the economic development potential of cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City than have even our legislators. By going to the hub system and reducing competition through consolidation they have made air travel more difficult for those of us in non-hub America. When corporate executives have to fly in to Oklahoma on incredibly uncomfortable propeller jets it becomes very difficult to persuade them to relocate their business here.

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