Advocate editorial board opinion: Finding another carrier is necessity for area

Once again, the future of air travel in Victoria is up in the air.

At the end of this month, Colgan Air Inc. will fly its final flight out of Victoria and leave a void in air transportation options from the Crossroads.

Colgan filed for bankruptcy in February. As a small market air carrier, Colgan fell victim to rising fuel prices and lower flight boardings because of a weak economy.

The business of serving small markets with air travel has been a dicey proposition at best - profits are small to non-existent. Government subsidization of airports like Victoria is designed to assist struggling air carriers, but even that wasn't enough for Colgan to continue.

The result is that Crossroads residents are denied an air link to the major airport hub of Houston. The only option for catching a flight now is a multi-hour drive to Houston, Austin, San Antonio, or Corpus Christi.

There are those who will say that if a business is not profitable, no amount of government support will make it successful. They would apply a ruthless analysis of the situation as the right result of survival of the fittest.

They would point to quality air service in the bigger cities that ring Victoria as providing a sufficient link for business travelers and tourists.

But that would be missing the point, in our view.

We believe that consistent, convenient and cost-effective air service in Victoria is vital to continued economic success.

Our community is at the center of economic momentum spurred by the new Caterpillar facility (which coincidentally begins production the same month that Colgan ends air service) and by the Eagle Ford Shale play, which continues to flourish in communities throughout the Crossroads.

It's a great time economically for our community, but lack of air service threatens to hamper continued momentum. A 1997 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that the local economy grew faster in a county if it was within 50 miles of an airport with scheduled passenger service.

That's why we encourage Victoria County and the Victoria Regional Airport officials to make finding a new air partner a top priority.

We believe a strong public/private partnership should seek viable air carriers to serve Victoria.

We're confident that there is a good fit for Victoria out there. We've read of a no-frills newcomer - Great Lakes Airlines - that is proof there is a lucrative opportunity in connecting rural America to bustling airports.

Great Lakes serves the upper Midwest, but if its business model works there, we're confident a similar air carrier will find success in Victoria.

But we've got to move fast and confidently to secure air service out of Victoria Regional Airport.

We don't want such a void to ground future economic success.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.