Air Demand in a Dynamic Competitive Context with the Automobile

Airport managers must contend with a constantly shifting market for air transport services. Smaller to mid-sized U.S. airports that once thrived on short-distance feeder flights now find fewer carriers even interested in competing for their local markets. In many cases, the result is a shrinking market, with trips on short feeder flights simply replaced by long automobile trips to competing airports. Recent research indicates that the automobile competes directly with air service for certain kinds of trips, but relatively little is known about how the choice between air service and automobile is made, both for full trips (automobile replaces air for the total trip) and for feeder segments (automobile replaces as feeder to more distant airport). Much has been written about the decreasing role of smaller American airports (e.g., ACRP 03-29, "Effects of Airline Industry Changes on Small- and Non-Hub Airports") as some short-distance air segments are simply replaced by automobile trips, despite longer travel times. For moderate distance trips in the United States, the dominance of the automobile over the airplane is even more striking. In the domestic passengers' experience, the automobile is the primary, dominant competitor to air. The objective of this research is to produce a document that summarizes the role of the automobile as a competitor to airline trips; to help all members of the aviation community understand both its role in present market behavior; and to explain the implications of possible changes in demographics, policies, and economic conditions. The analyses undertaken and reported under this project must target the practitioner in the field, with relevance to actual decision making. It should not be limited to the implications of travel times and travel costs, but rather be based on original market research about the manner in which the intercity traveler makes modal decisions, how various future social and demographic conditions might alter those decisions, and the effect those decisions might have on future airline traffic and airport operations.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Aviation Administration

    800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  United States  20591

    Airport Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Goldstein, Lawrence

  • Start Date: 20150731
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 40177

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01572143
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: 03-40
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Aug 1 2015 1:30AM