A study released Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration - its annual economic analysis - reflects the realities airports such as Alpena's are facing in the marketplace today.
Interestingly, the study would seem to reinforce contentions local officials are painfully becoming increasingly aware of - small markets are just not that attractive to carriers in today's economic climate.
In an Associated Press story, officials with the FAA "predicted that more airline mergers and consolidation will shrink the number of cities served and the number of flights available" in the years ahead.
Despite fewer choices and fuller flights, the report predicts air service will continue to increase steadily over the next several decades.
A study like this helps explain, at least, why Delta is going to "piggyback" its flights between Pellston and Alpena in the weeks ahead. It also helps give credence to the fact why SkyWest folks, for instance, would even want to consider adding Alpena to its Muskegon to Chicago service.
With over 10,000 emplanements at Alpena this past year, certainly the numbers are there to make the airport more than a blip on a commercial carrier's radar screen. And, given the airport's ties to the military, the proposed economic growth county commissioners are banking on at the airport and the supporting evidence of this study, it is safe to project those numbers only will increase in the years ahead.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Reliable commercial air service for Alpena can't be considered a luxury, it has to be our region's number one priority right now. Air service is essential to our region's economic growth and prosperity.