Boutique airports and airlines: Why smaller is better

We spend a lot of time celebrating aviation's brashest achievements -- biggest, fastest, longest.And ...

Posted: Jan 7, 2019 12:42 PM
Updated: Jan 7, 2019 12:42 PM

We spend a lot of time celebrating aviation's brashest achievements -- biggest, fastest, longest.

And when it comes to investing and improving, airlines often focus on the premium customer: offering larger beds and better first-class cabins.

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But for most of us, the everyday reality of travel is economy and short-haul, and that can often mean crowds, delays and a whole heap of wasted time.

There are some regional airlines and airports making efforts to improve the short-haul experience, however, and to bring some of the humanity -- and sanity — back to travel.

Here are three of them:

The hometown airline

Massachusetts-based Cape Air operates up to 550 flights a day around North America, using a 90-strong fleet of 11-seater Cessna planes, with no route longer than 90 minutes.

"Cape Air is an employee-owned company," Cape Air CEO and founder Dan Wolf tells CNN's Paula Newton. "Everybody is treated like they are an individual person. [That's] the nice thing about flying in an airplane with relatively few people."

Security lines are never longer than nine people -- because that's the maximum number of passengers on the plane.

And, adds Wolf, although usually when a passenger gets on board "the window shade comes down, the television comes on," when you fly on a little Cessna, "you're part of the experience of flying."

What could be a dull commute becomes an opportunity to enjoy incredible panoramic views over the East Coast and connect with your fellow passengers.

Fares range from $29 to $299, and the airline offers a bulk commuter pass at a discounted rate.

Kevin O'Shea, a local businessman who regularly flies Cape Air, says, "It feels like a hometown airline. You arrive at the airport, everyone knows your name; It sort of brings some humanity back to air travel which we don't seem to have these days."

The boutique airport

At Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, there are no shops, limited dining options, and it's the only airport in the country to have a curfew.

But, says airport manager Peter Scherrer, that's because it's "an arrival-destination airport. People don't want to stay here, they want to go on their flight and they want to exit. This is not a mall and we like it that way."

At Westchester, the emphasis is on speed and convenience. Once you exit your flight, you're right at the baggage carousel, and the rental car desk is just a few steps away.

"Time is very important," says Scherrer. "If you look at the departure lines, [people are] on cell phones, they're trying to do things, but they're waiting for the flight. So if they can reduce their time waiting in line, they can get here a little later than they would at a larger airport."

Turnaround time is a neat 45 minutes because "an airplane doesn't make money if it's sitting on the ground," adds Scherrer.

As for the curfew, "we have an agreement with the FAA and the airlines that limits the commercial service here. It's a very important agreement for the county of Westchester and the residents here. You don't want this turning into a large commercial airport."

Around 1.5 million passengers pass through Westchester each year. Compare that to Atlanta, the world's busiest airport, which handles 100 million passengers a year, and you can see why small is beautiful.

The savvy Scandinavian

"More than 90% of our passengers fly short haul," says Rickard Gustafson, CEO of Scandinavian Airlines. It constitutes "75% of our revenue."

Which is why SAS is currently upgrading its short-haul fleet by replacing one-third of its aircraft with A320neos by 2020.

But, he explains, "if the flight is only for an hour, you cannot really have a very different offerings on board in terms of seat pitch or sizes. You have to compete on other things."

So SAS offers free tea and coffee, and prepares a menu of healthy, locally sourced food.

However, adds Gustafson, "The experience on board is not the most crucial part of the travel experience."

His airline is also investing in making things easier on the ground: fast-track capacity, lounge upgrades and digital tools to assist the passenger, beginning with the booking process and continuing right through the journey.

Globally, more people are flying than ever before -- and the majority of that is on flights of fewer than six hours.

Airlines and airports which ignore the quality of their short-haul, economy experience are missing out on a big slice of the pie.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 954230

Reported Deaths: 15474
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1298902003
Lake638781106
Allen54326765
Hamilton44326448
St. Joseph42368592
Elkhart33998491
Vanderburgh30740451
Tippecanoe27012251
Johnson23862420
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Clark17657231
Madison17628387
Vigo16465285
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Warrick10793179
Bartholomew10730171
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Wayne10169230
Grant9271206
Morgan9000160
Boone8507112
Dubois7823124
Dearborn776391
Henry7749134
Noble7510101
Marshall7452129
Cass7244118
Lawrence7080154
Shelby6701111
Jackson666386
Gibson6233107
Harrison613287
Huntington608397
Montgomery5903106
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Union99511
Ohio80911
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1393696

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1544531574
Cuyahoga1364632341
Hamilton991581326
Montgomery682681161
Summit571661051
Lucas51927869
Butler48223663
Stark42502983
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Lake24920422
Delaware22656147
Licking20886246
Fairfield20833223
Greene20708275
Trumbull20465516
Medina20236290
Clark18277332
Richland16793236
Portage16501231
Wood16002209
Allen14459261
Miami14091261
Muskingum13019155
Wayne12306244
Columbiana12094242
Tuscarawas11297271
Marion10960150
Pickaway10675129
Scioto10618127
Erie9905171
Ross9685177
Lawrence9005125
Hancock8667143
Ashtabula8533187
Belmont8301188
Geauga8294156
Jefferson7785175
Huron7598131
Union745351
Washington7451126
Athens712965
Sandusky7003135
Darke6906137
Knox6876122
Seneca6551137
Ashland6095115
Auglaize598788
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Brown579072
Mercer566790
Crawford5603117
Defiance5587101
Madison552571
Highland551782
Fulton544583
Clinton537681
Logan521987
Preble5131111
Putnam4915107
Guernsey489464
Williams471582
Perry466254
Champaign456664
Ottawa444684
Jackson438763
Pike402645
Morrow400551
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Fayette385253
Adams373675
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Gallia357858
Henry332969
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Van Wert323271
Hocking312570
Wyandot286858
Carroll268252
Paulding248843
Meigs225542
Monroe193449
Noble174942
Morgan171229
Harrison161941
Vinton143119
Unassigned05
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