Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) just got some good news and some bad news.
The good news: In early April, United Airlines is adding new non-stop service to Houston.
The bad? It’s likely only for a week.
Thanks to the High Point Market, which starts on Saturday, April 6 and has an estimated economic impact of $6.7 billion a year, United Airlines will, for about one week, open new nonstop service to the Texas home of the Astros and Johnson Space Center.
Though right now the route is only scheduled to be available for a week or so, PTIA officials are hoping area residents will take advantage of the availability of the flights to pack them – showing United and other airlines that this area can support ongoing service to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. The hope is that enough flyers to and from that city in early April will lead to the year-round addition of the route and get other airlines to consider adding more routes as well.
This week, PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker said it’s rare for an airline to add a new route for an event, so this type of opportunity doesn’t happen very often. He said that, more commonly, airlines will switch out smaller planes for bigger ones on established PTIA routes when a major event calls for more service to this area.
“The airlines try to match seats with demand,” Baker said, “so, for instance, during furniture market, many will ‘up-gauge’ airplanes serving us. So, for instance, a 70-seat regional jet may be swapped for a 90 or a small mainliner like a Boeing 737 or Airbus 319.”
He added that the airport will sometimes even see mainline aircraft up-gauged as well, with, at times, Boeing 757’s being called in..
Currently, PTIA offers non-stop flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New York, Newark, Orlando, the Tampa Bay area and Washington DC.
According to Baker, like the airlines, the airport is gearing up for the April crowds that will fly in for the Furniture Market. He said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will add agents due to the increase in passengers.
“The TSA constantly watches flight schedules – not just for market, but obviously that’s a big event – and adjusts,” he said.
PTIA beefs up internally as well.
“We also adjust staff if required and we work with the market folks to manage visitor travel,” Baker said.