Lakeland positioned to become new gateway to central Florida
Coming from its big win securing Amazon Air’s main hub for the middle of Florida, Lakeland Linder International Airport is gaining attention as a better-located alternative airport for many of the State’s biggest attractions.
Lakeland is all about location, with the airport closest for two million passengers
Lakeland is almost equidistant from Orlando and Tampa – at each less than 90 minutes away. Lakeland is just 45 minutes from Disney World and it is the closest airport to Legoland.
While nearby theme parks drew 40 million visitors a year before the pandemic, the region generates almost 90 million annual airline passengers.
Lakeland is the closest airport for about two million of these passengers – or an average of 2,600 per day each way.
And the passenger market is quickly growing. Lakeland generated 12% more passengers in 2019 than it did in 2018.
“We think we offer something unique in central Florida,” said Lakeland’s airport director, Gene Conrad. “We have immediate access to Interstate 4, we’re closer to parks than the airports that many use today, and we also have great access to beaches along the Gulf.”
Lakeland offers a true zero-cost environment, saving up to $13 per passenger
Lakeland is a blank canvas with an 8,500-foot runway, which helped it lure Amazon away from airports in Orlando and Tampa.
For passenger airlines, it offers a true zero-cost environment – with zero terminal rent, no gate use fees, no parking fees, and no Passenger Facility Charge (PFC).
Lakeland saves an airline almost $13 per passenger over Orlando International, $6 over Orlando Sanford, and $9 over Tampa.
Lakeland is one of the US’ fast-growing metros
Lakeland is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country.
Even without the huge number of available inbound tourists, Lakeland could support an airline.
The Lakeland metro area has grown by 14% in the last decade – the fastest-growing metro in Florida. More than 685,000 people live in the metro area alone.
And along the I-4 corridor, the population has swelled to more than seven million within 90 minutes.
Headquarters of notable companies like Publix, the huge supermarket chain, anchor the economy. Publix has continued to travel throughout the pandemic, as it moves essential goods throughout the eastern half of the country.
And it’s quickly growing – adding several stores each year. Its vendors travel to Lakeland every day – generating more than 500 airline trips a week.
Lakeland leakage study shows almost 500 daily passengers to three cities alone
The area has strong connections to the northeast and upper Midwest.
A brand-new passenger leakage study, completed by Volaire Aviation Consulting, shows the Lakeland catchment area generates almost 200 passengers per day each way to New York City.
It also generates 150 passengers per day to and from Washington, DC, and 120 to and from Chicago.
Demand is heavily driven by families who have moved to the region and have remaining family members fly to visit them. These types of passengers have been most resilient during the pandemic.
Lakeland to benefit post-pandemic, including with revenue guarantee fund
Florida has shown strong tourist demand. Lakeland’s businesses are mostly essential and positioned to add employees. Plus, more people will be working from home, allowing them to relocate to places like Lakeland with great quality of life, a more reasonable cost of living, and access to beaches and parks.
The Lakeland community has been exceptionally supportive of the airport’s growth.
Before the pandemic, the City of Lakeland and Polk County each dedicated $1 million to a revenue guarantee fund for new service.
While the trajectory of the pandemic has made the future of air service uncertain, those communities will remain committed to bringing an airline to Lakeland.
This article is brought to you by Volaire Aviation Consulting.