Air service into Tallahassee, our state capital is an embarrassment. For me it has never been a particularly serious issue as I always enjoy a nice drive through the state to reconnect with our people and to be alone with my thoughts. But for most citizens, businesses and advocates this has become an issue which has made state government in all honesty less open and less accountable.
Tallahassee has yet to achieve the critical mass of other mega-state capital cities. Sacramento, Albany and Austin all have developed suburbs and an economic base beyond government (in Sacramento’s case this economic base is a low economic one however, not something necessarily to emulate) which has in turn attracted more air service. They are also more ideally located within their states, or at least a large portion of the state’s population (southern Californians forever make Sacramento the butt of jokes but the reality is it is less than 100 miles from San Fransisco). Tallahassee’s remote location makes travel to the capital prohibitive for most ordinary Floridians. The largest real population centers, Jacksonville and Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach-Destin are a minimum of two and a half hours away by car. The three mega metropolitan areas as well as the major exurban areas of central and southwest Florida are even further away, ranging from a three and half hour drive to eight hours away.
In 2001, the city of Tallahassee and the state thought they had alleviated this problem by contracting with Air Tran to serve the city. At around the same time the city of Pensacola and Escambia County put together a similar incentive package for Air Tran. Today, Air Tran (recently bought by Southwest) still serves Pensacola, while they pulled out of Tallahassee just months later.
The current service to Tallahassee is listed below:
|American Eagle||Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami||A|
|Delta Air Lines||Atlanta||B|
|Delta Connection operated by ExpressJet||Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale||B|
|Delta Connection operated by Pinnacle Airlines||Atanta||B|
|United Express operated by Silver Airways||Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa||A|
|US Airways Express operated by PSA Airlines||Charlotte, Washington-National||A|
Tallahassee currently has no service beyond regional hub airports. The only two flights from the airport that do not go to a connecting hub for a major airline are the Delta Connection flight to Fort Lauderdale (which is subsidized) and the United Express flight to Orlando (Fort Lauderdale and Tampa serve as United Express hubs though they are not United hubs. UA moves passengers from second tier cities in Florida and the Bahamas to the airlines major hubs via FLL and TPA)
This is in direct contrast to fifteen years ago when nonstop flights from Tallahassee were available to every major airport in Florida except Fort Myers and US Airways operated several mainline jet flights to its Charlotte hub. At one point in the last decade Delta linked Tallahassee with New York, Dallas/Fort Worth and Cincinnati and Northwest served Memphis nonstop when they were purchased by Delta. All of these routes have been discontinued. Florida has five of the 50 busiest airports in the country (Miami 12th, Orlando 13th, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood 21st, Tampa 29th, Fort Myers 49th) but yet cannot maintain a decent level of air service to its capital city.
The question is with confidence in state government at an all time low, and the continued difficulty the capital city is having attracting and keeping commercial airline service, should the state directly subsidize air travel into Tallahassee?
What do our readers think?