Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Changes need to be made to air service
By the Advocate Editorial Board
April 1, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.
Updated March 31, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
In June 2012, the Victoria Regional Airport chose Sun Air International as the new air carrier service for flights between Victoria and Houston. From that decision until now, the airport has seen some difficulties in the service available. The airline originally planned to begin offering flights that July, but service was delayed until October of that year.
In January 2013, a vice president from the company came to Victoria and took part in a meeting to address the concerns of some business and community leaders. At that time, about 70 percent of the company's flights departed on time, which the official acknowledged was a figure that needed to improve. In July 2013, Victoria County agreed to pay $39,500 for a study of Victoria's flying future from Seabury Airline Planning. On March 24, the county paid for the study, which has not yet been finalized. However, some of the information from the study was available.
Preliminary findings show that about 70 percent of Victoria businesses are not using the Victoria Regional Airport. This number is disappointing, especially because the airport can be an important resource for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, we have received comments and concerns from community members over the years complaining about factors such as small plane size, a limited flight schedule, baggage problems and more. Even Victoria College had an incident in which a speaker from California had to drive to Houston Hobby Airport to make a connecting flight because of a weight limit on the flight out of Victoria.
We look forward to seeing the final results of this study. The county's contract with Sun Air expires Sept. 30, which means the county has some options to consider. If the study shows that Sun Air is not the best carrier for Victoria County, we encourage county officials to look for alternative carriers that will better serve the community. For a growing region like the Crossroads, it's time to look for a carrier that can better provide for residents and businesses' needs, such as offering larger planes capable of carrying more than nine passengers and can handle passengers' luggage without worrying about weight limitations.
The Federal Aviation Administration is accepting essential air service bids, which is the program that helps fund the Victoria Regional Airport's service, until mid-April. That means Victoria County can look at alternative companies, but we also agree with a suggestion from Seabury Airline Planning that the county should look into offering a substantial subsidy to attract a larger carrier. The subsidy could be a public/private partnership with some of the larger businesses in addition to other parts of the community that take advantage of the airport's services.
Until the full results of the study are available, we do not know the full story of what can be done to improve service at the Victoria Regional Airport. But we do know that changes will need to be made for the airport to reach its full potential. With that in mind, it's time for the county to begin looking at all its available options.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.