UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Empirical exploration of air passenger airport choices and airport catchments across a large region Yirgu, Kaleab Woldeyohannes; Kim, Amy M.


Disparities in air services among airports across North America have deepened considerably over the last two decades and continue to do so, encouraging air passengers to drive long distances to access airports offering better air services. Decades of studies have documented air passengers from an airport’s presumed catchment area – usually defined by administrative or geographic boundaries – “leaking” across these boundaries to start their air trips from larger, more distant airports. Towards abandoning the implicit catchment assumptions or focus on one specific airport previously relied on to study this issue, we create a novel dataset that combines air tickets purchased by passengers from airports throughout a large section of the US Midwest, together with publicly available data, to better understand the service-based drivers of these choices. Key results include the following. First, changes in air service attributes for short- and medium-length routes at an airport will have a larger influence on air passengers’ airport choices, compared with long routes. Second, comparable proportional changes in air service attributes lead to much larger changes in the market shares and thus, catchment areas, of small and medium airports, compared with large hubs. Within these service characteristics, airfare is found to impact passengers’ airport preferences more than flight frequency and nonstop services. Finally, the catchment areas of small and medium-size airports are strongly influenced by the proximity and characteristics of neighboring airports. Those of large airports are not, and in fact large airports retain very strong market shares across multiple jurisdictions. The study results further our understanding of the influence of air service attributes on long-distance airport choice across a large geographic area served by a diverse set of airports, and implications on multimodal transportation planning within and across regions.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International