Delta departure signals trouble for Tweed

City officials reacted with equanimity to Delta Air Lines’ announcement last week that it would discontinue service to Tweed-New Haven Airport. Attributing Delta’s decision to the airline’s financial difficulties, Tweed officials suggested that the success of U.S. Airways service between New Haven and Philadelphia during the past year indicated the airport was performing well.

While there is some truth to these points, they obscure the underlying issue. Losing Delta as its second carrier was a major setback to Tweed, and New Haven’s experience with Delta should serve as a lesson for the future. At Yale, the announcement should serve as a reminder that air travel to New Haven is likely to remain inconvenient for students in the near future, and further efforts must be made to facilitate transportation to larger area airports.

While Delta’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings presumably played a role in the company’s decision to cut service to Tweed, airline representatives said the airline’s decision was rooted in the belief that the Tweed line could not become profitable in the long run. Given that New Haven provided Delta with $1.6 million in revenue guarantees as an incentive to come to Tweed last year, the city should remember this case during negotiations with other airlines.

The city’s goal of bringing three carriers to Tweed now seems as far away as ever. Delta’s inability to turn a profit at Tweed decreases the likelihood that other major airlines, most of which are also struggling with financial problems, will be lured to the Elm City. With major airports relatively nearby in Hartford and New York City, the loss of Delta makes Tweed a far less appealing alternative for travelers. It may be time for city officials to recognize that the dream of having an effective regional airport at Tweed is, at the very least, a long way off.

This is bad news for the many Yale students who travel to and from school by air. Despite its small scale, Tweed’s location less than five miles from campus is a significant convenience. While Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks and LaGuardia and JFK in New York provide a wealth of connections, travel from New Haven to these facilities can be both expensive and time-consuming.

With Tweed unlikely to become a viable alternative for most students in the near future, it is critical for Yale to address these concerns. The Yale College Council’s work to coordinate airport shuttles in recent years has been helpful, but the shuttles’ irregularity and limited service have detracted from their utility. Given the need for students to make travel arrangements well in advance, a regular, well-advertised shuttle system that provides convenient transportation to all three of the region’s major airports must be put in place.

Improving airport transportation is one of the simplest and least costly steps the University can take to save its students both time and money. Tweed’s ongoing struggles underscore the fact that transportation to New Haven remains a serious problem, and one that Yale and the city should be taking more steps to address.

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