Philly lags in int'l flights

Mike Strange, of Bassetts Ice Cream, has to fly to Chicago to meet a customer from China.
Mike Strange, of Bassetts Ice Cream, has to fly to Chicago to meet a customer from China. (Michael Klein / Philly.com)
Posted: November 15, 2012

Mike Strange, president of Philadelphia-based Bassetts Ice Cream, has to catch a flight to Chicago on Wednesday morning to meet with a customer from China.

Bassetts' business is booming in China, but the customer could not get a direct flight from China to Philadelphia.

"That means an extra flight for me to Chicago and for my broker," Strange said. "Given my druthers, I would not be flying to Chicago."

A recent report by the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program on global air travel shows that Philadelphia grew its international-passenger levels from 2003 to 2011 by 6 percent.

But at the same time, the report shows, Philly, the fifth-most-populous metropolitan area, ranked last in growth rate among the 10 most populous U.S. regions, in which international-passenger levels increased from 20 percent to 45 percent.

And 63 percent of Philadelphia's international "through passengers" - people who fly to or from an airport when that airport is not a start or end destination - are to Western Europe. Far fewer through passengers - about 6 percent - go between Philadelphia and rapidly growing economies in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

At the rate his sales are growing, Strange said, Bassetts may sell more ice cream in China next year than in Philadelphia and the rest of the U.S. The fifth-generation family business has been in Philly since 1861. ( bassettsicecream.com)

Strange flies to China twice a year, also connecting through Chicago each time.

"I'd love a direct flight from Philadelphia to Beijing or Shanghai," he said. "It would certainly make things easier. I'd probably be inclined to take more trips."

The Brookings report (see http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/10/25-global-aviation) found that international aviation routes serve as an urban economic engine at home, generating tourism exports and supporting local industry.

Global trade accounted for $18 trillion in merchandise in 2011 and $4.2 million in services, Brookings said.

Among the report's main recommendations:

* Strengthen partnerships among the feds, metro areas, the private sector and other nations to maximize performance of the global aviation network.

* Realign existing programs to support metro gateways and the changing global economy.

* Focus on critical investments that demand a "present" federal partner in a next-generation air-transport system.


 


Contact Michael Hinkelman at hinkelm@phillynews.com or 215-854-2656. Follow him on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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