Since the invention of powered flight in Dayton, Ohio, the air service industry has experienced its share of turbulence, often mirroring the ups and downs of the global economy. Most recently, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a particularly dampening shift in the air service industry with travel restrictions, public health orders, and concerns about safety keeping many from taking to the skies.
Unfortunately, even before COVID-19, Ohio was experiencing aviation challenges of its own. Ohio lags behind the rest of the Midwest in terms of air service. Since 2005, airports serving Ohio have lost service to 113 destinations as well as more airline capacity and seats per capita than all other surrounding states. Throughout the pandemic, Ohio went from offering 11 West Coast routes to just four by March 2021.
Air service is a vital industry for every state in the U.S. as well as every country around the globe. In Ohio, air service not only creates many jobs, it’s also an important part of the local economy, with airports contributing over $17 billion per year to the state. When attracting businesses and talent to an area, air service is a major influence on the decision to move to a state. Businesses have told us they need air service in order to expand, relocate to, or even in some cases to stay in Ohio.
The economic viability of commercial airports relies on passenger service and air cargo — and with Ohio facing challenges in air service, it will take a concerted effort to revive this industry here. With the pandemic impacting the aviation industry nationwide, suddenly Ohio is once again on a slightly more level playing field. We have a unique opportunity to turn this around by seizing the moment with a restoration program.
With the help of JobsOhio, Ohio’s economic development corporation, the state is making key investments in air service restoration under the JobsOhio Air Service Restoration program. The goal of the program is simple: to connect more people to more parts of the country through air service, attracting businesses and talent in the process. And it’s paying off. Airlines are looking to increase their capacity in Ohio, with current projects adding up to 14 new routes for a potential economic impact of $268 million.
While Ohio has experienced a decline in air service for nearly 20 years relative to the rest of the Midwest, early signs indicate that the investments of the JobsOhio Air Service Restoration program are making strides toward revitalizing the industry. Air service is essential for the continued economic development of the state. Without it, opportunity is limited, however, thanks to the help of JobsOhio and its network of partners, the sky’s the limit.