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Passenger air service for South Kitsap?
A consultant researching the feasibility of operating passenger air service from Bremerton National Airport defines the interest he’s seen from the local market as “lukewarm.”
Nonetheless, Charlie Riordan told Port of Bremerton commissioners on Tuesday that, based on his findings, commuter carriers would at least be interested in talking to airport officials about the prospect.
“Would they demand a guarantee that they would earn a given amount of money in this market before they agreed to provide the service?” Port Commissioner Larry Stokes asked.
“Not actually a formal guarantee,” Riordan said. “But they’d have to be pretty confident it would work. They’re not in business to lose money, but I think from the information we’ve put together, someone would be willing to take a look at it.”
Riordan, a consultant with Kansas City, Mo.-based BWR Corp., was tasked this spring with researching under what circumstances passengers would be willing to consider flying directly out of or into Bremerton rather than trekking to SeaTac.
The company sent surveys to an estimated 2,100 chamber of commerce members from Kitsap, Mason and Jefferson counties and got 104 responses — a rate of about 5 percent.
According to the surveys, 55 percent of respondents would greatly increase their use of a local airport if nonstop service were available to their destination or to a major hub.
Given that there is a total population of 316,000 within the area studied, Riordan said passenger service in this region could make sense under certain circumstances.
Not surprisingly in a region heavily populated with U.S. Navy personnel, the BWR survey concluded that the most popular destinations for travelers living in the study area were those associated with the military.
Nearly 38 percent of those polled indicated they traveled regularly to San Diego, Calif., followed by Norfolk, Va. (13 percent), Honolulu, Hawaii (12 percent), Washington, D.C. (10 percent), and Providence, R.I. (5 percent).
The most popular non-military destinations were Las Vegas, Nev. (7 percent), and Reno, Nev. (4 percent).
The results prompted one attendee at Tuesday’s briefing to wonder why the consultant chose to survey business owners instead of military and support personnel.
“Seems to me our real target market is the military,” said Bremerton resident John Hanson. “I’ve met with lots of Navy and (Puget Sound Naval) Shipyard people, and they do a lot of traveling — a lot more than private-sector businesses usually do — and I’ll bet they’d love to fly out of Bremerton.”
Stokes, however, was skeptical. He noted that over the years several companies had tried to make a go of passenger service from Bremerton, and that all had failed.
“There’s a perfectly good shuttle service that can take you from Port Orchard to SeaTac for, what, $14?” he said. “It’s pretty tough to compete with that.
“If there was money to be made doing this, someone would already be doing it,” Stokes said. “How many failures do we have to have before we stop paying for these studies?”