Mesa’s Williams Gateway Airport has three runways, a four-gate passenger terminal, one security checkpoint — and an uphill battle to convince passenger airlines they can make money here.
Scottsdale Airport has one runway in the middle of a huge business park, has no baggagehandling or security equipment — and three companies that want to offer passenger flights by early 2006.
The two airports are built to serve vastly different needs, but have abruptly become competitors for small passenger airlines.
Scottsdale has a better shot at making it work, said Evergreen, Colo.-based airline consultant Mike Boyd.
"They do have very highend traffic, not mere mortals like you and I," he said.
Aviation World Services wants to begin service from Scottsdale "as soon as possible," but doesn’t have any plans for Williams Gateway, its president said.
"Until the population, in my estimation, grows and warrants it, I don’t see a lot of aircraft, or a lot of aviation, going out of there," said Bryan Johnston, Aviation World Services president.
But Williams Gateway director Lynn Kusy said his airport, in Mesa near the borders of Gilbert and Queen Creek, has a population base that turns airline executives’ heads.
"We do have 750,000 people within the region of Williams Gateway, and that’s projected to increase to 1.5 million," he said. "When we talk to them, they’re very much interested in that number."
The Mesa airport is among the nation’s 50 busiest. But it hasn’t been able to pin down regularly scheduled passenger service, even though it’s been positioned as a reliever to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix since 1993.
In recent weeks, John Barry, the man in charge of luring passenger flights to Williams Gateway, said he’s been close to getting a charter airline to commit. But a crucial meeting was postponed twice as the airline awaits word on when the plane it plans to use will be ready.
Williams Gateway spokesman Brian Sexton said talks with another carrier, Atlantabased Transmeridian, are on hold because of a change in staffing on the airline’s end. But they are hopeful talks can be resumed to get a flight to Rockford, Ill, in place for spring training.
Vision Air, based out of Las Vegas, is one of the other carriers that wants to go to Scottsdale, but also has been in talks with Williams Gateway, Barry and Sexton said.
"We are very hopeful, or we anticipate, some service coming on line," Sexton said.
Scott Gray, aviation director for Scottsdale Airport, said he doesn’t think Scottsdale’s airport will be ready to begin offering passenger service before next May.
As for competition: "For us, we’ll always be a singlerunway airport," Gray said. "We have no more developable land, and we will always be a very small player in the commuter range."
Interest in the ritzier city is a good sign, Barry said.
"It’s encouraging from the standpoint that people went through Sept. 11, and are ready to start adding service, whether it’s at Scottsdale or Williams or anywhere at this stage in the game, with fuel prices where they’re at," he said.