- Associated Press - Thursday, June 21, 2018

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - Long in search of ways to draw in more people, authorities in Mobile are considering a plan to make air travel more attractive by swapping the city’s two airports.

A plan under consideration would send commercial passenger traffic - which currently lands west of the city at Mobile Regional Airport - to Mobile Downtown Airport at Brookley Field. Brookley currently handles mainly cargo and general aviation flights but would move its traffic to Mobile Regional.

A study released this week said the swap could work after a transition period of between three and five years, and Mayor Sandy Stimpson is on board.

“The Mobile Airport Feasibility Study revealed what many of us already knew. Not only is their community wide support for moving the airport to Brookley, but carriers prefer it too,” Stimpson tweeted Wednesday.

The plan still must be approved by the Mobile Airport Authority, which will consider the proposal next week, and some residents already are worried about a potential swap forcing them from their homes.

“Our primary concern is we don’t want to have people coming knocking on our doors saying ‘Oh, we want to buy you out. You all have to move, we need the land,’” said Shawn Bivens, who lives near the downtown airport.

The 68-page study concluded that the current location of Mobile’s passenger airport, which is at least 7 miles from either Interstate 65 or Interstate 10, is partly to blame for the facility losing business to other airports including Pensacola, Florida; Gulfport, Mississippi; and New Orleans.

The Brookley site is on Mobile Bay near I-10, making it more accessible to downtown residents and traffic from either Mississippi or the Florida Panhandle. Switching the airports, which would include adding new terminal facilities downtown, would be cheaper than improving road access to the current passenger airport, the study said.

While ticket prices to Mobile are generally considered high, the study said swapping the airports would make the city a more attractive destination for low-cost carriers, which could help drive down prices overall.

Chris Curry, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, said the city needs to do something to attract more air travel.

“Forty-seven percent of traffic that should use regional airports (is) going to outside airports,” he said. “We must try to reverse that trend.”


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