With the thousands of flights that operate in and out of our nation’s airports every day, the thought of an entire state not seeing a single commercial flight seems absurd. The truth is, however, that only 49 of the United States see scheduled airline service. The state of Delaware is the only one in the nation without commercial passenger flights.
Delaware has had a long history of trying to make itself a viable destination for air carriers, but hasn’t been very successful. The tiny state, being the second smallest in the nation, is situated very close to several major airline hubs. The Baltimore-Washington area, Philadelphia, and the New York Metro are all within about 100 miles, giving travellers about large 7 hubs to choose from. The prevalence of such hubs, which are much more affordable than smaller regional airports, is Deleware’s biggest obstacle in being able to make air travel in the state feasible.
Delta previously provided regional service from the state’s New Castle Airport near Wilmington to it’s main hub in Atlanta. Even though the route utilized small regional jets with only 40 seats, the airline couldn’t sell the tickets and the flights were only 50% full. In the last 20 years, United, Shuttle America, and Crown Airlines tried service to the airport, all of which were unsuccessful.
The New Castle Airport has seen millions of dollars in upgrades over the last decade and has what it needs to offer successful airline service. A commercial airport in Delaware could offer a lot of amenities that the larger hubs can’t, that would make it a favorable choice for passengers. Short lines for security and ticketing, quick baggage claim, no flight delays, and free parking are unheard of at other nearby airports. According to the State, the biggest problem is that people aren’t aware that the airport even exists. The airport has spent thousands on marketing campaigns and billboards to try to increase awareness, but nothing seems to work.
The prevalence of nearby hubs, high operating costs, and the lack of knowledge of the state’s airports have made commercial airline service to the state of Delaware hard to sustain. Hopefully as the market recovers as expected and passengers become more aware that they have a great alternative to the delay-stricken hubs close by, the state will once again see commercial flights.