It won’t happen right away, but one day the Quad-City International Airport may offer direct service between Moline and Charlotte, North Carolina.
That’s according to Mike Bown, vice president of Trillion Aviation, who spoke Tuesday to the Metropolitan Airport Authority. The consultant helps market the Quad-City airport and community to airlines.
"I would say two to three years down the road it’s (Charlotte) probably the No. 1 opportunity," he said. "It’s certainly not a slam dunk. It has the possibilities of happening."
He told the airport commission that American Airlines was impressed by the business ties between the Quad-Cities and North Carolina.
“Deere has a lot of factories in the North Carolina area. It would tie well to that," he said. "And historically you have pretty good traffic levels to the southeast United States."
Currently the best air route between Charlotte and the Quad-Cities is through Atlanta on Delta, Bown said. “And Delta is pretty full on their Atlanta flights."
Bown said he met with American Airlines representatives March 9 and last fall he met with Delta and United. He said he also usually meets with representatives of Allegiant and other airlines.
He said Houston would be another possible direct flight connection through the Quad-Cities. "And on the leisure side, primarily being Allegiant, it most likely would be Destin, Florida," he said.
Bown said overall numbers so far in 2018 from the Quad-City airport are good and better than 2017's numbers. Since 2012, the airport has annually reported a decline in total passengers for all of the airlines serving the Quad-City area — from 792,549 in 2011 to 665,691 last year.
“You had a good April," he told the commissioners. "You are up 11 percent. You are up 4 percent calendar year-to-date. That’s generally pretty positive."
The airport is in a stabilization period right now, he said. His biggest concern going forward is economic growth for the area.
Air service in general is driven by economic growth," he said. "And the economy here just hasn’t been growing over the last number of years."
He contrasted the local air numbers with the great growth he’s seen in the Iowa City-Coralville-Cedar Rapids area.
"That sector is booming," he said. "There’s a lot of growth there. You are not seeing that here."
In his industry update, Bown also said United Airlines has announced it will be growing its seat capacity by 4 to 6 percent industry-wide annually over the next three years.