WHY TCL NEEDS
There are over 440,000 people within 60 minutes of the Tuscaloosa airport. The region is home to one of the world’s best known universities, a large auto manufacturing industry led by Mercedes Benz U.S. International, a leading regional medical center, and numerous cultural and business attractions.
However, the region lacks commercial air service to connect the local business and education center with key markets.
As Tuscaloosa’s economy has grown, its lack of air service stands as an impediment to the business and social needs of the community. Simply put, direct commercial service is critical to the continued growth and further expansion of the regional economy.
Tuscaloosa National Airport is already an important economic engine of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Western Alabama. The airport has a significant General Aviation (GA) operation, bringing economic development opportunities to the region. The City of Tuscaloosa has a population of over 240,000 and a Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) of approximately $12 billion USD.
There are over 440,000 people within an hour drive of TCL and approximately 1.3 million within a 90-minute drive of the airport. This catchment area stretches into the City of Birmingham, as far south as York, Alabama and extends into eastern Mississippi including the Cities of Columbus and West Point.
Without commercial service at TCL, travelers must drive to other airports in the Southeastern US in order to reach the national aviation system.
Within the Tuscaloosa area, there are 644 air passengers per day. This represents well over the 200 seats that would be available on a 4-times daily service on a CRJ200 aircraft.
The destinations of passengers within the TCL area are distributed across the United States. Top destinations include the Washington D.C. and New York metro regions, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Chicago, Orlando, and West Coast destinations such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
All of the 644 daily passengers within the TCL catchment area face poor options for reaching the national aviation system. Birmingham (BHM) is the most popular airport for access to and from Tuscaloosa, with over 82% of the market utilizing it as the origin or destination airport. This is followed by Atlanta (ATL) with over 14%.
The University of Alabama is the institution most closely associated with the City of Tuscaloosa. The University has grown significantly in recent years, particularly among out-of-state students. Out of state students now comprise the majority of University enrollments.
In 2018, Alabama enrolled 38,653 students, 22,598 were out-of-state. This is up from a total of 24,000 students in 2008, of which only 6,000 were out-of-state students. The increase in out-of-state enrollment has put increased pressure on interstate transportation in and out of the Tuscaloosa region.
While the out-of-state students come from across the United States and the world, there is a clear concentration of students from the Southeast United States, making a regional air connection a necessary part of air service development efforts.
The University generates significant travel demands by its faculty and staff.
As the University continues to expand, its travel needs will increase as well.
The lack of commercial air service from TCL limits the opportunities for efficient travel options, creates undue pressures on University staff, and limits the number of visits to Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama.