Syracuse's Hancock Airport moves from city ownership to private authority

Kister and Wildhaber Photography/Flickr
October 15, 2013

Early next year control of day-to-day operations at Syracuse’s Hancock Airport will transfer from a city department to a private authority.

The Airport Authority’s first order of business was to hire a private security contractor. The move is expected to save $2 million a year in police overtime.

Aviation Commissioner Christina Callahan says if the airport can find other ways to cut costs and increase revenue, that’ll be reflected in cheaper fares and more traveler choice. "There’s a direct relation between the cost of doing business in Syracuse and our ability to attract additional service and new carriers."

The airport must run as a revenue neutral operation. In years when the airport spends more – during extreme weather for example – airlines have to chip in to help close funding gaps.

By the same token, any savings the airport achieves are passed onto the airlines.

Kevin Schwab overseas the aviation arm of CenterState CEO, a regional economic development agency. "The competition between cities for air service is only becoming greater. Airlines are trimming capacity and have been over the last few years and they’re being much choosier about where they decide to launch new routes."

Schwab says even a $5 cut in ticket fees can be a decider for low-cost airlines looking to move into an airport.

Right now the city’s aviation department reports to the Common Council. The council is working on a long-term lease agreement that will transfer operations to the authority, but that’s been delayed.

Once the vote goes through, an 11-person board will take over control. Callahan says they’ll continue to look at innovative ways to cut costs and generate revenue. "They understand that the airport is a business and they can decisions that are sometimes tough decision to make because they may not be popular, but they’re the right decision to make for the airport."

She says that will help when she’s knocking on airline’s doors telling them ‘we need service’.