SWANTON, Ohio- JTwenty years ago, the Eugene F. Krantz Toledo Express Airport here in western Lucas County was abuzz with commuter traffic. Planes coming and going were bigger, fares were more competitive, and there were plenty of options to choose from in this Midwestern port city, located on the western tip of Lake Erie and Buckeye State.
The airport began in 1955 as a civic and corporate effort to meet the needs of the region. What was then called Toledo Municipal Airport (now Toledo Executive Airport) was seen as inadequate to serve the booming post-World War II industrial city. Two years later, the Official Airline Guide showed that there were 13 daily flights carrying people in and out of the city. Twenty years later, nine major airlines were operating multiple daily nonstop flights.
Things peaked here in 1997, as they have across the country in other mid-sized cities. Since then, places like Toledo, Ohio began their decline, going from being directly connected to the rest of the country to dangerously neglected as passenger options went from local access to an hour’s drive from Detroit. to make their journey.
At the time, airline experts said rising fuel costs were making many routes in places like Toledo unprofitable; Aviation consultant Robert Mann said at the time that the airlines’ first objective was to “get rid of the losers”.
Last week, American Airlines announced it was ending daily passenger service from Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Airport Express after Labor Day. It wasn’t just here either. Dubuque, Iowa, and Islip and Ithaca, New York, also lost passenger service from their regional airports.
Briefly, as a reporter from Detroit Gary Miles so eloquently formulated said on social media: “Flyover Country just got more hovered over.”
American Airlines is not the villain in this story; the cuts are in response to a regional pilot shortage affecting the entire industry, which could last for a long time.
But as the very phrase “get rid of the losers” implies, many influential people in elite institutions are unaware or unaware of the economic and emotional effects this sort of thing has on a small to midsize town. It’s kind of like when they shrugged when manufacturing, opportunity and stability left these cities 30-50 years ago.
When an airport stops serving your city, it deprives industries (and travelers) in the region of the use of the air network, the common denominator that determines the success of business and tourism across the country and the world.
And that creates another small death in places that are trying to recover from a series of other small deaths that they have endured over the years due to automation and destructive trade deals and the loss of Fortune 500 companies keeping their headquarters in their hometown; here in Toledo there were seven located here until the late 70s.
My favorite line in response to a story like this is, “Why aren’t they moving?” My favorite personal reaction to this is, why don’t you come here and ask this question of the people who live here? And since you can’t fly here and ask them, you might learn a few things along the back roads that you’ll probably have to take from New York or Washington, D.C.
More than 50 years ago, few blinked outside the towns and cities that the railroads began to bypass. Transportation had created towns along the trading centers of rail lines, where farmers sold livestock, businessmen could trade and receive their goods, and local lawyers and doctors could continue to inhabit their small towns due to their access to travel.
It also meant tourism and new commerce – money coming into town meant a town continued to thrive. But when they started leaving, the cities became the ghosts of what they once were, and the elites just shrugged.
Just as the railroad was a major factor in the economic viability of a region, so are airports in small towns. It’s a story that few of our elite class will care about because they can’t see how it affects them, just as they couldn’t see how a factory closed so many years ago would affect them. . But he did, he does, and he will.
The dismissive term “overflown country” implies a world of bitter Bible and gunslingers, deplorables and ultra-MAGA. This implies that the lives and industries of half the American population are ignorant – that is, until the people, places and issues they ignore begin to affect national politics. It is around this time that elites in New York and Washington start to wonder what happened again when another election result blows their closed minds.
They think it is because they are narrow-minded, that they are uneducated or bigoted. Voters here and across the country know it’s because they’ve yet again ignored the impact of things like an airline being forced to shut them down. And what was the root cause of the shortage of airline pilots to begin with?