Tag Archives: AMA

They’re pitching this new flight service — seriously!

I’ve lived in Amarillo, Texas for more than 23 years.

During that time I have not seen such a concerted advertising campaign to pitch airline service out of this city’s international airport.

Until now.

American Airlines is about to launch new daily non-stop service from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It’s a big deal. I’ve said as much already on this blog. I get the attraction for business travelers as well as for families seeking quick and convenient air service to a vacation destination.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

This new service appears to hold considerable promise for the airline and for the city. I appreciate and understand the value of modern, convenient air service. We have it here, to the great credit of City Hall and the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

That promise must explain the TV advertising I keep seeing.

It  makes me curious as to why.

  • Delta Airlines once launched daily non-stop service between AMA and Memphis, Tenn. It didn’t take. Delta terminated the service after a brief period of time. Then the airline stopped flying to Amarillo altogether.
  • Southwest has been flying daily to Las Vegas out of Amarillo for several years. I haven’t seen the TV ads promoting that service.
  • United has flown non-stop to Denver for some time, too. No ads. Now the airline is flying non-stop to George Bush-Houston Intercontinental Airport; it assumed that service when United merged with Continental Airlines. No ads, either.

Perhaps we are witnessing a new, more aggressive marketing strategy with American’s new service between AMA and PHX.

Given that TV ad time doesn’t come cheap, I hope the investment pays off for the entire city.

Enjoying a front-row seat of progress

Our new “home” across the way from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and the Bell Helicopter aircraft assembly plant has given me a front-row seat to an amazing display of engineering and economic progress.

My wife and I have been living at an RV park within spittin’ distance of AMA and Bell. From our living room we are able to watch jets fly in and out of the airport while also witnessing test flights of a state-of-the-art combat aircraft that is put together right here on the High Plains.

I refer, of course, to the V-22 Osprey, the notable tilt-rotor aircraft that’s seen plenty of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years. The Marine Corps has been using the bird to ferry troops and supplies on and off battlefields in both countries for, oh, about the past decade.

The Osprey hasn’t been without controversy. Many of us recall the terrible crash in Arizona that killed nearly 20 Marines on a test flight.

The Osprey, though, has been re-engineered since that crash. It has been improved. It has been modified to some degree. Today, from what I have heard, it has performed its mission well. The aircraft gives American fighting personnel quicker entrance and exit from the battlefield.

Amarillo used an interesting — and occasionally mocked — economic tool to lure Bell/Textron to the High Plains in the late 1990s. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation offered a lot of money that it collects from sales tax revenue to Bell/Textron, which ended up receiving about $45 million in various inducements, including tax abatements and free land next to AMA.

Bell returned to Amarillo, where it once repaired and maintained Huey helicopters during the Vietnam War.

AEDC hit a home run when it lured Bell/Textron to the region. We have seen it grow over the years, expanding its mission.

I think of all this on occasion as I watch the Osprey take off and land. I recall the ridicule we heard from the Fort Worth area that lost the Bell operation, thanks to Amarillo’s aggressive and creative marketing campaign.

I also look with some pride at what this community has been able to accomplish for its local economic health as well as contributing to the nation’s vaunted military establishment.

I spoke once with a Marine pilot who was stationed in Amarillo to test-fly the Osprey earlier in its development. He mentioned to me how this aircraft was so hard to learn to fly, but once he got the hang of it, the Osprey has turned out to be a lot of fun to fly.

On occasion I think of that Marine as I watch the Osprey glide through its paces above us, and I wonder how much fun they’re having overhead.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

I read with some interest a story this week about the Amarillo City Council approving a contract with American Airlines that sets up direct flights between Amarillo and Phoenix, Ariz.

The non-stop flights begin in April. The contract will be for one year; American Airlines will decide at the end of that year whether to extend it depending on its profitability.

My sincere hope is that American keeps the jets in the air between AMA and PHX.

Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has been a favored lure for the city as an economic development tool. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation once subsidized American Airlines jet service between AMA and Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport; AEDC took a portion of the sales tax revenue it collects and paid the airline to maintain jet service.

AEDC eventually ended the subsidy. The airline dropped jet service for a brief period, but since has restored full jet service to DFW. It now will fly jets out of Amarillo to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

I’ve long touted the value of Amarillo’s air service to my friends and colleagues for as long as I have lived here. We don’t have many air carriers serving this community — American, Southwest and United. But two of those carriers, American and United, have plenty of international flights. When you depart AMA aboard either of those carriers, you are essentially just one stop away from connecting to flights that will take you anywhere on Earth.

Southwest is a highly profitable regional carrier and AMA gets service not just to Dallas Love Field, but also non-stop jet service to Las Vegas, Nev.

While much of our attention — mine included — has focused on downtown revival and on the extensive highway reconstruction along Interstates 40 and 27 as well as on Loop 335, we also can look with considerable pride at the airport that serves the Texas Panhandle.

I once spoke with Sarah Freese, the former aviation director at AMA, about the possibility of getting more carriers to serve this airport. She was hopeful at the time of attracting at least one more carrier. Freese has since moved on and I don’t know the status of the city’s effort to lure more carriers here. I hope it hasn’t withered away.

Amarillo’s airport remains a potentially big draw that will lead to the city’s brightening economic future.

AMA gets chance to boost city business climate

Amarillo long has seen its international airport as a gateway to the city’s economic well being.

If you look back over recent history, you find examples of the city forking over public money to keep jet service between the airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport; critics called that initiative a form of “economic bribery.” I called it at the time a bold and creative initiative to help make business travel more comfortable for those seeking to do business in Amarillo.

The money came from sales tax revenue collected by the Amarillo Economic Development Corp.

So, with that the city has announced that American Airlines is going to begin daily non-stop service between Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. They’ll fly once daily between AMA and PHX.

The AEDC, City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce see it as a big business opportunity, connecting Amarillo with a key hub out west, enabling travelers to avoid flying east to DFW just to connect and fly west.

That’s a good idea … if the city markets the opportunity as aggressively as it did the AEDC subsidy it paid to American Airlines back when it sought to entice the carrier to keep the jets flying to DFW.

Since I am fully retired and since my wife and I will spend the vast bulk of our domestic travel time in our fifth wheel RV rather than in airports, I don’t have a particular dog in this so-called fight.

For the rest of Amarillo — which appears to be entering an accelerated growth mode — this new air service is good news.

Let there be more.

We’re soaked around here, but is drought really over?

I’m going to have to do the virtually unheard of thing later today: At not quite the halfway point in August, I’m going to empty our rain gauge, which is full of water.

We’ve gotten slightly more than 5 inches of rain at our humble abode in southwest Amarillo so far this month. My wife and I empty it at the end of each month before waiting for more rainfall. This month has been a soaker, man!

The National Weather Service station near Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport reports that Amarillo has received 19 inches of rain year to date; that’s 5 inches more than normal and 6 inches more than we had at this time in 2016.

So, put another way, we’ve achieved just about our average annual amount of precipitation — and we still have more than four months to go in this calendar year.

All of this begs the question: Is the drought over?

I’ve heard it said about the crippling drought the High Plains endured in 2011 that it would take an epic amount of rain to bring us officially out of drought status. I cannot remember the specifics, but given that the Ogallala Aquifer takes so very long to recharge given its depth that the rain has to fall in virtually biblical amounts to break the drought.

I’m going to continue believing that and monitor my water use accordingly.

We don’t have one of those automated irrigation systems in our yard. So that’s not a particular issue for my wife and me. We serviced our outdoor faucets during the depths of the drought, so we’re good there. We do things in the kitchen such as turn on the sink faucet sparingly when washing dishes. We remodeled one of our bathrooms a couple of years ago and had one of those “gravity flush” toilets installed, which saves water.

We’re not paragons environmental purity. I don’t intend to portray us as such. Water preservation, though, remains on the top of my mind’s awareness, even when it’s pouring out of the sky.

I keep thinking, too, about that fabulous PBS documentary “The Dust Bowl” that aired not long ago. It told the terrible, horrifying story of how prolonged drought and reckless farming techniques formed a sort of “perfect storm” that created what has been called the nation’s “worst manmade environmental catastrophe.” The Texas and Oklahoma panhandles were in the bullseye of that hideous event.

Our farming techniques have improved since the 1930s. Yes, we can control how we take care of our land. The return of the kind of Dust Bowl-era drought, though, is far beyond our meager effort to dictate to Mother Nature.

Let’s keep that in mind — even as we welcome the rain that keeps drenching us.

Here’s an idea: How about sprucing up AMA?

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson rode into office partly on the strength of an ambitious six-point campaign platform.

It pays a lot of attention to economic development, fiscal responsibility, accountability to taxpayers and even makes a nod toward improving the appearance of public rights-of-way along our interstate highways.

I didn’t see any mention of Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. Indeed, I am keeping my copy of an Amarillo Globe-News story that profiled Nelson’s campaign platform; my intent is to remind myself of issues she is addressing and which of them she needs to devote more attention.

About the airport.

I just returned this evening from a quick trip to AMA and noticed a couple of things about the site.

One is that the grounds immediately around the covered parking structures look better than they have looked in recent months. The grass is cut and trimmed. I did notice a number of weeds sprouting through the pavement in the parking lot. Tsk, tsk.

The other thing I continually notice as I drive along Airport Drive is that it, um, is so non-descript. I didn’t notice a “Welcome to Amarillo” sign, or any roadside artwork that depicts the personality of the community travelers are visiting … many for the first time, or perhaps for the only time.

I make the point about AMA for this reason: In the 1990s, the city spent a lot of tax money to subsidize jet traffic provided by American Airlines. The idea of spending Amarillo Economic Development Corporation sales tax revenue on these jet aircraft was to make air travel more comfortable for business travelers. The AEDC subsidy was intended to lure business to Amarillo. It drew its share of criticism from other communities. Frankly, it sounded like so much sour grapes.

I found the strategy to be innovative, aggressive and ambitious. The city ended the subsidy. American Airlines pulled the jets out of its Amarillo-to-D/FW route — for a time. Then the airline brought jet traffic back to AMA, as did United Airlines and Continental; Southwest always flew jets in and out of AMA.

The city once staked a lot of public money on air service at its airport. What’s more, in recent years the city has renovated and remodeled AMA, modernizing the terminal, turning it into an attractive site.

We have a new mayor and an entirely new City Council making policy at City Hall. Our new city manager, Jared Miller, came here from San Marcos with a reputation as someone who emphasized economic development.

I’ll throw this idea out to them all for consideration: How about developing some sort of strategy to make Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport a good bit more inviting to those who come here from the Metroplex, from Houston, Denver, from Las Vegas or from Phoenix?

There might be a business opportunity to be gained for the city if the traveler gets a first-glimpse look at what the city has to offer on his or her way out of the airport.

Just some food for thought, folks.

AMA may get big new service boost

airport_0

Perhaps you’ve experienced this bit of airline travel frustration flying out of Amarillo.

You book a flight, say, to San Francisco. But to get there you have to fly about 90 minutes east to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where you board another aircraft and re-fly across land you’ve just watched out your window as you zoomed toward the Metroplex.

That might change significantly.

Amarillo aviation director Sarah Freese is negotiating with American Airlines to add another non-stop flight west to Phoenix — the one way out there in Arizona.

Thus, the notion goes that air passengers might stand a better chance of avoiding the dreaded re-flyover routine.

This is good news for those of us who like fly west once in a while.

Understand this: I don’t fly too much. I do venture back to my hometown of Portland, Ore., on occasion. Sure, I can get there with stops in Denver or Las Vegas, which are served by United and Southwest Airlines, respectively from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The Phoenix route, though, gives travelers from AMA another option that might help them find a better fare than they otherwise would pay.

http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2016-09-06/amarillo-airport-hopes-add-non-stop-flight-phoenix?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook_Amarillo_Globe-News

Freese received a Transportation Department grant to enable the city to seek the Phoenix connection.

The aviation director noted that flying east “when you want to go west” makes you “want to beat your head against the wall.”

Amen to that.

Let’s hope the city finalizes the Phoenix route soon and makes even better use of its still-shiny new airport terminal.

AMA grounds improved, however …

Here’s an update on the grounds at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

They’ve improved, but there’s still some work that needs doing out there.

I went to the airport today with a friend to check on his flight out of Amarillo tomorrow afternoon. We drove onto the parking lot and as I looked around I noticed two things:

* Most of the weeds I saw on my previous visit to AMA had been cut.

* The greenery around the parking garage still looked a tad ratty.

I’m having difficulty understanding why the city that runs the airport doesn’t do a better job of keeping the place well-groomed — to the point of immaculateness.

The airport quite often is the first thing visitors see when they come to Amarillo, or any city, for that matter. Business travelers come here for the day, perhaps to stay overnight and then they returned to their home.

What are they going to say about Amarillo if the airport where they touch down looks as though it violates city weed-height ordinances?

I blogged about this some months ago. A City Council member told me the state has some responsibility in keeping the airport appearance up to snuff. The state?

http://highplainsblogger.com/2014/08/13/ama-going-to-seed/

I believe now as I stated then: The airport is a city responsibility and that ought to include the appearance of the property surrounding it.

Hey, the city spent some serious money just a few years ago rebuilding its terminal. The structure looks quite attractive. It is modern, user-friendly, is bright and airy.

Let’s finish the job and get the grounds around the building looking as good.

Who's in charge at AMA?

A brief follow up is in order for a blog I posted about the deplorable condition of the grounds surrounding Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

I wrote that weeds are taking over the place. The parking lot, and the grounds next to the parking garage, look terrible. Seedy. Unkempt.

http://highplainsblogger.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/ama-going-to-seed/

Then I heard from a member of the Amarillo City Council who told me that the city might not be responsible for the appearance of the place. The Texas Department of Transportation might be the offending public agency, I was told.

The council member reportedly spoke with City Manager Jarrett Atkinson about it. Atkinson said he would research the matter.

Here’s my take. City Hall, take care of the place.

Passengers who are flying in and out of AMA believe they are using a municipally-owned airport. That should include the grounds on which the airport sits. Someone walking from a jetliner into AMA understands implicitly they are entering the city of Amarillo. Thus, the city has its face on the air terminal.

Crappy-looking grounds is a blight on the city, not the state transportation agency.

Therefore, the city needs to step up, get rid of the weeds, manicure the place, and make our international airport look presentable.

Changes coming to AMA

The Wright Amendment expires later this year, meaning that some changes are in store for an air carrier that serves Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

Southwest Airlines, headquartered at Dallas Love Field, will reduce its daily service at AMA from seven flights to five.

What’s the connection?

Well, the Wright Amendment, enacted in 1974, was meant to protect the then-new Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport by restricting travel from Love Field. Southwest Airlines planes couldn’t take off for destinations without having to stop first in close-in locations. The amendment, named after its author, former U.S. Rep. Jim Wright, D-Fort Worth, has been scrapped now that D-FW has grown up and become one of the world’s pre-eminent air terminals.

What’s in store for AMA? Two fewer Southwest flights daily, for starters. Airport officials aren’t signaling any panic. They’ll continue to compete for air service in and out of their shiny new terminal. Southwest will be able to depart Love Field for farther non-stop destinations.

Amarillo, though, isn’t without some economic weapons of its own to toss at carriers looking for a place to land. It’s used one of them with effectiveness in the past. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation once paid American Airlines more than $1 million annually to retain jet service in and out of AMA. The money came from sales tax revenue it collected, believing that the jet service would attract business to Amarillo by providing more comfortable and speedier air service. Critics scoffed at the idea of paying for jet service, but it worked. American Airlines retained the jet service, then scrapped it for a time, and then returned it to Amarillo — as well as to other regional airports around the country.

I’m not too worried that AMA is going to be left in the cold once the Wright Amendment passes into history.

However, if business falters at AMA, the AEDC has a large pile of money at its disposal to dangle in front of those who are looking for some incentives to do business with Amarillo. The precedent has been set.