For years, Manhattan area residents made the two-hour journey down I-70 to the Kansas City International Airport in order to fly into major hubs for travel, business and other events.
However, in 2009, a new deal was struck between American Airlines’ “American Eagle” flights and the City of Manhattan. The deal meant that Manhattanites could fly to Dallas/Ft. Worth out of the comfort of their hometown airport, the Manhattan Regional Airport.
In 2010, another deal allowed people to fly from to Chicago. That was big, because O’Hare International Airport has routes that go around the world.
Today the Manhattan Regional Airport has two flights a day to Chicago O’Hare and three to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport.
For decades, the airport was just known for its flights to Kansas City. Peter Van Kuren, Manhattan Regional Airport director, says that the new flights came to Manhattan because of the growth and expansion to the city over the past decade.
“It was a combination of things (bringing the flights here), first and foremost it’s the market…our number one goal was to show them that the surrounding region has had significant growth and the population is such that it could support service.” Said Van Kuren
Van Kuren also credits growth to Ft. Riley, Kansas State University and the coming of NBAF to bringing the flights to Manhattan. But other factors sealed the deal.
“What put (American Airlines) over the edge, was working with the state of Kansas and the community of Manhattan were able to offer the airline a revenue guarantee.” Van Kuren said.
Basically, the revenue guarantee meant that the city and the state were willing to share the risk of bringing the flights to, at the time, an unproven market.
This presented Manhattan and the surrounding area with a tremendous advantage, says Van Kuren.
“I think the main advantage is just the convenience to many people, not just in Manhattan, but Junction City and other surrounding communities,” Van Kuren said. “We have quite a few people west of here using our airport instead of other airports.”
Van Kuren points to a report done by the Kansas Department of Transportation in 2008, done before the air services were offered, showing that the airport has a nearly $23 million impact on the region around Manhattan.
Van Kuren said that the airport being as small as it is presents another advantage to that of the bigger alternatives in Wichita and Kansas City. Manhattan is able to offer smaller lines and less of a crowd, which can make the experience much easier.
He said they receive many compliments on the security and TSA personnel as well, in what he considers another advantage.
“Our security folks are our neighbors, these are people who live in our community…we’ve received a lot of good compliments because of them.”
The service can be utilized well by students of Kansas State, especially those who are out of state, or those looking to go on a trip or even looking to stay in Manhattan after graduation, job hunting.
“For the students that are enrolled, from states further away, flying directly into Manhattan, or having family members fly directly into Manhattan, is a huge convenience for them,” VanKuren said. “We see quite a bit of students here.
“When a student graduates (and is looking for a job), now there maybe an opportunity to remain here locally, stay in the community and get a really good job,” Van Kuren said, because of the airport.
However, Van Kuren does say that the airport needs improvements in order to continue to succeed. He said an expansion is in the mix for the 13,000 square foot terminal building. Including a new terminal space and many more parking spaces. Van Kuren says the master plan calls to triple the size of the terminal building by 2015.
In the end, the residents in and around Manhattan do seem to be very happy with the airport’s services. Van Kuren says he has gotten a lot of feedback from customers.
“(We’ve had) overwhelmingly positive feedback right from the get-go,” says Van Kuren.