BG airport could get commercial flights

Mary Barczak

Plans to expand Bowling Green’s airport could take off soon.

Rob Barnett, airport manager at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport, said that about two weeks ago, he made proposals to several airline services to make Bowling Green a part of their flight routes.

Two carriers’ subsidiaries have shown interest in the city, including Delta Airlines, United Airlines and three recreational services: Sky King, Vision Airlines and Direct Air, Barnett said.

Representatives from the airlines did not return calls for comment.

If implemented, Bowling Green could serve as a connector to any of the proposed cities: Chicago, Ill.; Memphis, Tenn.; Myrtle Beach, S.C., or Atlanta, Ga., depending on what the airline has to offer.

Currently, the airport is classified as a general aviation airport that offers hangars for patrons’ planes and has a fixed-base operator on hand for pilots.

In February, the airport got a $500,000 grant from the Small Community Air Service Development Program to develop commercial services, Barnett said.

Barnett said he thinks that after an initial airline carrier steps forward to work with the airport, others could follow, depending on the community’s response and use of the new service.

He said he thinks a smaller community would offer people several benefits, such as less traffic, lower driving times, fewer parking issues and only one security screening that passengers would have to go through.

Scarlett Marklin, a senior from Tampa Bay, Fla., said it would be cheaper for her to get a flight home from Bowling Green than to drive to Nashville.

The airport is another step in the city’s growth, she said.

“It’s inevitable,” she said. “To support the growth of the city you have to expand the airport.”

Mayor Elaine Walker said she thinks the addition would be a huge “boom” to the city’s economic development and improve its “quality of life.”

“I think that Bowling Green is the perfect location for a commercial airline,” she said, noting to the city’s growth rate.

Walker said that before the economic downturn, Bowling Green was the fastest growing community in Kentucky.

She said that scheduled airline services would be beneficial to businesses looking to relocate and to families looking to go on vacation.

President Gary Ransdell said he thinks a local commercial service would be beneficial for the city and WKU.

“That would be wonderful and potentially save some money,” he said.

Ransdell said that about 2,200 WKU employees travel during the year, and having a commercial service in the city, depending on the airline and the connection it offers, could make it easier for them to travel and help save money.

As far as recreational airlines go, Ransdell said he’s open to the possibility of working out Spring Break deals with the airline if there’s a “demand.”

Seattle junior Frank Murdock said he would be interested in the services depending on what carrier the airport gets.

“If it came with Southwest or Delta, then I definitely would be interested,” he said.

Dale Smith, an associate professor in the social work department, said he thinks getting a commercial air service in Bowling Green is a terrible idea, and he would never use it.

Smith said that the city does not need big airplanes to fly in and out. Instead, it should focus on keeping the city clean.  

“We need green places in Bowling Green, not concrete,” he said. “We have enough of that.”

Matt Marvel, an associate professor in the management department, said he would be open to using the proposed air service because his wife’s family lives in Chicago and he travels there about once a month.

“I’m not too familiar with the plan, but I would be excited for opportunities to fly from Bowling Green to Chicago, and I think it would be well-received with the students of WKU,” he said. 

Marvel said that his frequent use of the service would depend on pricing and alternative travel.

Barnett said that as the economy is starting to recover, airlines are also starting to become more stable and will look into testing out new routes.

He said the idea of bringing commercial flights to Bowling Green has been in the works for about 13 years.

“I would like to see something happen today,” Barnett said.

But he knows that it will still take a bit of waiting.

The airport still has about three-and-a-half years left to use the grant money, he said.

Reporter Joanna Williams contributed to this story.