The State With No Commercial Flights

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.

Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASQ) operated 40 seat CRJ-200’s to New Castle-Wilmington from Atlanta for Delta Connection. (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

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.

13 Comments

  1. June 25, 2012    

    The state of DE will have to change its marketing strategy, revamp the whole concept, then; get the airlines to do their part. As an independent “Marketing Consultant” [with friends and relatives living in DE], I know; that commercial aviation is not only feasible, but economically sound. They have to think outside the box!

  2. Dave Muenzer Dave Muenzer
    June 25, 2012    

    I have flown out of ILG when there was commercial traffic there, it was quick and easy, but only one destination, ATL, when Delta was there.
    However, PHL is only 25 minutes north of Wilmington, DE. on Route 95 (non stop driving).
    PHL is a major hub for USAir Domestic and Int’l as well as having non stop svc to SFO, LAX, ORD, BOS DFW and Mia etc.
    It just wont work for the commercial carriers. ILG is basically a corporate jet base for companies like DuPont, Campbell Soup and many major banks. There’s also a major Dassault Falcon maintenance center based there.

  3. Peter Gordon Peter Gordon
    June 29, 2012    

    Interesting that Delta is Delaware corporation.

    • Steve Steve
      June 29, 2012    

      many companies are incorporated in Delaware, even though they may not be HQ there. I think it has to do with favorable tax treatment. A company I worked for in NC (only the one office bldg), was a Delaware corporation.

  4. David David
    June 29, 2012    

    “Delaware Corporations” do not have to be based in Delaware. You can incorporate a business in any state that has the kind of tax laws you prefer. Delaware has done an excellent job of marketing itself as such and there are many such corporations.

  5. Sabrina Sabrina
    June 29, 2012    

    To “have Commercial Airline service” and then have travel SOUTH TO ATLANTA, in order to fly north west to Chicago, only means one thing. The “DeFacto” situation was that they NEVER had Commercial Airline service. I do NOT go left, to go right. If I want to go from where I live in Salt Flat, Texas to Lawton, Oklahoma to visit my brother at Ft Sill, I do NOT drive 90 miles WEST to ELP to fly to KOKC, (overflying KLAW), I walk out my bedroom door, climb in the Cessna, and fly to KLAW, SIMPLE!! If I had to take a commercial jet, I would drive to Philly., and fly to Chicago.
    Brie

  6. Michael Michael
    June 29, 2012    

    Sorry Delaware, but 25 miles to the airport is closer than the 30 I have to drive for an international flight. And I live in the Houston metropolitan area. IAH is 47 miles from my office. Granted Hobby’s domestic flights are 10 miles away for me. And for the poor folks on the west side of Houston it is 30 to 40 miles to both IAH and HOU.

  7. MW MW
    July 1, 2012    

    Instead of trying to get commercial service into an airport that is so near an already established major, how about further south within the state. If the military ever allowed, a commercial terminal at Dover might see more pax (including probably a lot of military personnel). Also in southern DE near Ocean City might be profitable.

  8. Cedarglen Cedarglen
    July 2, 2012    

    I just heard that a new, start-up carrier is going to begin non-stop service from New Castle to LHR in January, 2013. The carrier: Fantasy Airlines. More seriously, what surprises me is that they apparently cannot support even hopper service to Washington or Philly. Perhaps that’s where AA and Delta shoud send their soon to be retired <50 seat feeder jets. If it that bad, perhaps a Cessna 172?

  9. Dan Dan
    July 4, 2012    

    I’m a pilot and grew up in DE, 4 miles from ILG – my dad’s office was right across the street and I never stepped foot on that field until I was 30 (got my license in FL).
    It just seemed like a foreign world to most Delawararians. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who had ever been there. My parents both grew up in DE, my mom about a mile away in New Castle and the first time they ever stepped foot on the field was when I took them flying when I was 30. Maybe they should get some airshows in there or something but with Joe Biden going home every weekend with the accompanying TFR’ (Temporary Flight Restrictions) that may be hard to schedule.

  10. Carl Carl
    July 5, 2012    

    I live in Spokane, Wa. now but thought everyone around Wilmington knew about New Castle Air Force Base. It’s been awhile but I used to go swimming in there swimming pool when I was a kid.

  11. Carl Carl
    July 5, 2012    

    Yes…I saw the spelling was wrong (THERE) as soon as I posted.

  12. rumple stilk rumple stilk
    July 8, 2012    

    They could sell the whole we gotta a lot of private jets going unused for most of the time – an Uber.jet type service – “look! No lines. Limited TSA and limo+ like service…”

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About Kyle

I am a recent college graduate with a degree in Aviation Management. I spend my time as an airline industry professional, private pilot, blogger and world traveler. I have visited 36 countries to date and don't plan on slowing down. This blog is my way of sharing the latest developments in the airline industry as well as experiences from my world travels. All views and opinions are strictly my own.

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