Bradley International Airport leaders are pushing for flights to Seattle, Phoenix and the Caribbean this year, according to a formal set of 2019 goals adopted by the Connecticut Airport Authority board this month.
Route expansion and passenger growth continues to be the primary focus of airport leaders, and the adopted goals prescribe meetings with at least 10 airlines “to discuss potential domestic and international route enhancements, with a particular emphasis on establishing new nonstop services to Seattle, Phoenix, and the Caribbean.”
Other goals include securing a seventh consecutive year of passenger volume growth, attracting additional cargo operations and finalizing plans for a ground transportation center at the terminal that would house rental car vendors on the airport grounds for the first time.
A realignment of Route 20, which would make room for the center, is expected to be completed this summer.
Board Chairman Thomas A. “Tony” Sheridan said the Connecticut Airport Authority’s 2019 efforts will be almost entirely focused on making the airport as attractive as possible to potential travelers.
“It’s all about streamlining the whole home-to-plane experience,” Sheridan said. “We don’t want people when they come to the airport to feel anxious, we want it to feel warm and friendly.”
Adding flight options and renovating terminal areas are the primary components of a good experience for someone flying in or out of Bradley, he said.
“We had a very successful 2018, actually better than we could have anticipated. We want to keep the momentum going,” Sheridan said. “By the end of the next two years we’re going to have one of the best-looking airports in the country, which will have huge dividends for our state.”
Tucked in the goals adopted Jan. 16 was a plan for the CAA board to consider a name change for Bradley, a concept considered periodically through the years as officials questions whether anyone knows where Bradley is by name alone.
Adding something like Connecticut, Hartford, or Springfield into the name might boost its visibility as a connection point, the argument goes. A name not tied to any geographical location is probably hard for people outside of the Northeast to place.
“We’ve learned as we expand Bradley’s influence that there’s some confusion about Bradley Airport. Sometimes it’s called Hartford/Springfield,” Sheridan said. “One of the concerns all airports have is being easy to identify. You probably don’t have many people in Europe who know where Bradley is, but maybe more know where Hartford is.”
Bradley is named after Eugene M. Bradley, a second lieutenant who died in a 1941 dogfighting training exercise at what was then called Windsor Locks Army Air Base during the lead-up to American involvement in World War II.
“We’re not necessarily going to change the name, but we’re going to look at whether there are other opportunities,” Sheridan said.
CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon said the airport needs to explore the potential benefits of a name strategy similar to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire or Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland.
“We don’t have a definitive direction on it at this point,” Dillon said. “It’s important for an airport to be geographically identified, but we do want to be very careful about the legacy of the airport and our veterans groups.”
The airport began the year by announcing Via Airlines would be coming to Bradley in July, offering 50-seat flights to Pittsburgh four days a week. The news came just a few weeks after an announcement that Frontier Airlines would be returning to Bradley with flights to Denver three times a week.
Dillon said direct flights to Austin, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Jacksonville are also priorities.
“First and foremost we’re trying to deliver the services people in our area are looking for, and that includes more direct flights,” Dillon said.