Q. With all the film work coming to Wilmington, is there any way we can get an airline to offer a biweekly direct flight to Las Vegas or Los Angeles from ILM? How can the public help to get this to happen?
A: A flight, even a biweekly one, to Las Vegas or Los Angeles from Wilmington International Airport is extremely unlikely, say airport officials.
Jon Rosborough, Wilmington International’s executive director, said there are three major hurdles preventing the long flights: airplane size, demand and line of flight.
While Los Angeles is the 10th-most common final destination for Port City travelers and Las Vegas is the 25th-most common destination, Wilmington would have a tough time supporting a nonstop flight to either market because of the size of plane required to make the journey.
Some flights out of Wilmington International are on 50-seat and 76-seat planes. For airlines to justify making the cross-country trek, though, they would need to fill a 150-seat Airbus A320 or 185-seat Airbus A321, and the numbers just aren’t there for smaller airports.
“Let’s say we have 50 or 60 passengers going to Las Vegas, it would require a much bigger plane to travel that distance and we’d have a lot of empty seats,” Rosborough said, “and therefore airlines wouldn’t be amenable to putting that in.”
Even slightly larger airports than Wilmington’s have been unable to support direct flights to Western cities. McGhee-Tyson in Knoxville, Tenn., for instance, had a direct daily flight to Las Vegas with Allegiant Air that was recently canceled because they couldn’t establish the ridership.
“You require a much bigger city to have the ridership to make that a profitable idea, and in today’s economy with airlines’ shrinking capacity, that’s not going to happen,” Rosborough said.
The final factor is what airline experts call line of flight, which is based on the idea that an airplane is only earning money when it is in service. That means a plane is ideally flying for as much of the day as it possibly can, hitting the maximum number of destinations.
“For us to fit into a line of flight schedule is very, very unlikely for any of those distances,” Rosborough said.
There isn’t much the public can do to help bring a direct flight to either city because the decision is purely a business one on the airplane businesses’ ends.
Leaders in Wilmington’s film industry, for instance, have been asking for a regular flight to Los Angeles for years, Rosborough said, but it is not likely to come to fruition.
“They just don’t have the ridership on a consistent basis to make that happen,” he added.
Despite direct flights to Las Vegas or Los Angeles looking unlikely, reaching either destination only requires a stop in Atlanta or Charlotte, depending on whether the customer is flying with Delta or US Air, respectively.
Date posted: February 13, 2013