Publisher's Note — Not just an alternative

Not just an alternative

By Jody Reese

Manchester Airport often markets itself as an alternative to Logan Airport in Boston.

It’s a clever and effective way to attract travelers from Massachusetts.

But for us, the airport is no alternative. In many ways, it’s become a necessity — not just for today’s business and leisure trips, but as a means for the city to capitalize on tomorrow’s changing lifestyle patterns.

Consider retirement. The first wave of baby boomers will soon start to call it a day. For many reasons, I don’t think they’ll be as keen to move entirely to places such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Instead, many will choose to stay in the Manchester area for most of the year and head south only during the coldest months.

What does this mean for the city? Plenty. For one thing, more people staying in the community means more economic activity in the form of continued demand for housing, health care, leisure activities and so on. Older generations will remain in town to lend their expertise in many ways — to volunteer, to serve, to help make Manchester a better place for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

And one reason this will be possible is Manchester Airport’s emergence as a serious supplier of frequent flights and low fares. Without easy and inexpensive access to other places, Manchester would not be nearly as desirable to many retired people.

Just 10 years ago, MHT had only a handful of flights, and passengers had to collect their bags through a hole in the wall. Today, the airport offers nearly 100 flights a day and some of the lowest-on-average fares in the nation.

And the growth continues. Last week, Southwest Airlines announced four new destinations from Manchester: Minneapolis, Denver, San Francisco and (hold onto your grass skirts) Honolulu.

Not all the news is good. Independence Air, the upstart low-fare carrier that launched last year, cut the number of flights from Manchester to its hub in Washington, D.C. from nine to four. And U.S. Airways, the airport’s second-largest carrier (after Southwest), is in danger of liquidating.

But airport director Kevin Dillon is confident that any gaps in service will be filled in quickly by other carriers, and it’s hard to disagree.

Even for the airlines, Manchester is no longer an alternative. It’s a necessity.

—Jody Reese

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