Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions about the Mobile Airport Authority Master Plan 2020
Q1: Why is the Mobile Airport Authority moving commercial air passenger service from Mobile Regional Airport to the Mobile Downtown Airport at Brookley Aeroplex?
A1: A feasibility study conducted by VHB in June 12, 2018, determined that it was both feasible and critical for the Mobile Airport Authority to consider moving commercial air passenger service from the Mobile Regional Airport in west Mobile to the Mobile Downtown Airport in order to re-capture passenger traffic which has been lost to Pensacola Regional. Regaining Mobile’s share of the regional market improves levels of passenger service, drives a more competitive pricing structure, increases convenience and lowers fares. Approximately 55% of the Mobile market is lost to both Pensacola and New Orleans airports and the feasibility study indicated Mobile could recapture this market by moving its location to the downtown area, where much infrastructure and service is already in place.
Q2: What kind of increase do you expect in the number of planes that will fly in to and out of the Brookley Aeroplex once the transfer is complete?
A2: Pre-pandemic commercial operations at Mobile Regional accounted for approximately 40 daily operations. This represents the combined arrivals and departures of commercial service flights for Mobile Regional on Delta, American and United Airlines. These flight operations will be moved to Mobile Downtown. All other flight operations will remain at Mobile Regional. Mobile Downtown Airport has recently served nearly 40,000 annual aircraft operations.
Q3: What percentage of business and tourist traffic do you envision the Mobile Downtown Airport servicing?
A3: In the current environment of the pandemic, the majority of passengers served by the Mobile Airport Authority are leisure passengers. Most corporate travel has been suspended until the pandemic impacts have been mitigated. Once the aviation industry begins to recover to 2019 levels, business travel is anticipated to return.
Q4: When would the commercial air service be moved?
A4: The Mobile Airport Authority has been engaged with LeighFisher Aviation Consultants to create a Master Plan for establishing a new passenger terminal and the associated passenger traffic. The Airport Master Plan considered alternatives and determined the preferred location and infrastructure needs required to accommodate the relocation of the passenger terminal. The alternatives both considered and weighed development opportunities against the backdrop of all the current and future operations planned at the Brookley Aeroplex. The study included opportunities for public engagement and feedback so the MAAA could arrive at the best possible plan. The study was completed this summer. With the Master Plan in place, the Authority can engage a design and construction team to implement the plan with the goal of having the new location operational by 2024. However, it is possible that individual air carriers could move sooner if space is available at the Temporary Terminal at the Downtown Airport.
Q5: In view of the impacts of Covid-19 to the world economy, in general, and the aviation industry, specifically, does this impact your plans or timing to relocate to BFM?
A5: The pandemic does not impact our plans for the Airport Master Plan or the relocation of commercial service to the Mobile Downtown Airport. While there is no doubt that the aviation industry has been severely impacted by Covid-19, the market will rebound and the reasoning in the 2018 feasibility study is sound. The loss of Mobile’s air passenger traffic to regional competitors has been happening over the course of years. This is actually a good time to be developing and implementing a plan to recapture that market when it returns.
Q6: When do you expect full flight services to return? Why can’t airlines transfer now to the Mobile Downtown Airport from Mobile Regional Airport?
A6: The decline of passenger traffic worldwide has affected the airlines' financial health. Moving their operations to a new facility in a given market is not a priority at present. However, we expect the market to return, and with sound reasoning in the 2018 feasibility study, this is a good time to be preparing the Mobile Downtown Airport for that eventuality.
Q7: Are you planning to buy any adjacent properties or invoke eminent domain to expand the Aeroplex for the new downtown terminal and operations?
A7: The Mobile Airport Authority has been open and transparent about the properties it is interested in acquiring and has no plans at this time to expand outside the existing Aeroplex boundaries. However, the Authority will keep open all possible options to ensure it meets the needs of the entire regional community it serves. The newly released Master Plan will direct its needs.
Q8: Is the property across I-10 that once contained a housing project going to be utilized? If so, in what manner?
A8: The Mobile Airport Authority is highly interested in the acquisition of property owned by the Mobile Housing Authority, located northwest of the Mobile Downtown Airport. These parcels were originally part of the Brookley Air Force Base that could be used to serve a multitude of aviation-related needs in the future.
Q9: Where is the Crepe Myrtle Trail, what is it, and what is proposed concerning it?
A9: The Crepe Myrtle Trail is a plan for a public, recreational trail that stretches for miles along the western shoreline of Mobile Bay. It has been pursued by a diverse group of community-led organizations for many years and sections of the contiguous plan have been realized. The section adjacent to Mobile Airport Authority property at the Brookley Aeroplex has been delineated on the Downtown Mobile Airport Layout Plan in the Master Plan to serve as a basis for further coordination with the FAA and TSA regarding security compliance issues.
Q10: Is improved cleanliness and regular landscaping part of the Master Plan?
A10: The Master Plan is the first stage in the development of full commercial air passenger service at the Mobile Downtown Airport. While landscaping and cleanliness is not a part of this initial stage in planning, no doubt it will be addressed in succeeding stages of development.
Q11: How will the move impact traffic?
A11: Mobile Airport Authority consultants conducted a traffic study as part of the Master Plan process in order to recommend the best entrance, exit and connectivity points to the new facility. This study identifies the method to best maximize the existing system of roadways and opportunities for future development, accommodating projected traffic flows, and clearly identifies needed improvements to infrastructure. The study also evaluates existing and future traffic flows within the boundaries of the Brookley Aeroplex and associated operations.
Q12: How will you address congestion and current accessibility problems from the markets you hope to attract, including a potential ferry from Baldwin County?
A12: The Mobile Airport Authority will continue working with local transportation authorities, such as the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Port of Mobile, to address such issues jointly in the future.
Q13: Will there likely be an Amtrak station at the Mobile Downtown Airport?
A13: Mobile Airport Authority would welcome the consideration of any new Amtrak passenger service connecting to the new Mobile Downtown Airport and sees it as an important complement to its plans and an expansion of options for travelers. There is a proposed location for a station on the recently released Master Plan, but this would take some time to coordinate with all the parties involved.
Q14: What is MAA doing to collaborate with the Sensation cruise ship (when cruising resumes) to improve the passenger experience?
A14: Prior to the emergence of Covid-19 and during Frontier Airlines’ tenure here, we were in communication with the cruise lines. Once they are operational again, we will continue to explore mutual benefits.
Q15: Will you support shuttles between multi-modal forms of transportation (Cruise Terminal, Amtrak)?
A15: Yes, shuttles between multi-modal forms of transportation will be considered in future plans.
Q16: What can the residents and businesses surrounding the airport expect in terms of noise increases?
A16: While the Master Plan is designed to recapture the 55% of commercial air passenger travel that is currently lost to Pensacola and New Orleans airports and the forecast anticipates 624,000 enplaned passengers by 2040, the Plan is also designed to attract additional service. Aircraft engine technology continues to evolve, and new engine option (NEO) technologies have reduced, and will continue to reduce, airport operating noise levels. New or entrant carriers that may serve the Airport will do so utilizing aircraft designed to be quieter than the older carriers, especially those that have historically served the Mobile market. The Master Plan also took into account FAA requirements that identify acceptable noise thresholds and establish maximum allowable noise levels. The Master Plan prepared noise tracks based upon the forecast of operations. Noise impacts at Mobile Downtown Airport have been evaluated at a preliminary level in the Master Plan's environmental overview and are not expected to reach unacceptable highs of 65 DNL or higher for off-airport residential areas. (The noise metrics DNL 75, 70, and 65 are weighted decibel categories applied universally by government agencies such as the FAA.) It has been determined by FAA that areas exposed to the 65 DNL or higher are normally unacceptable for noise sensitive uses. The contours associated with these metrics reflect the cumulative exposure over an average day.
Q17: How will noise, air and water quality affect the local residential neighborhood?
A17: The Master Plan included an environmental overview to point out areas that should be looked at to minimize environmental impact. As required by the Federal Aviation Administration, a thorough environmental analysis will be prepared to address such issues in future phases of development beyond the Master Plan.
Q18: Will you seek to become a Green-certified airport and encourage all your tenants to do the same?
A18: Such certifications will be addressed in future phases of the development of the facilities beyond the Master Plan.
Q19: How will you work to minimize environmental impact of commercial development? Will you be working with The Peninsula to encourage low impact development along Dauphin Island Parkway?
A19: The Mobile Airport Authority will adhere to the environmental regulations set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Environmental Policy Act, and associated regulations for any commercial development in which they are engaged within the boundaries of the Brookley Aeroplex. While commercial development that may occur outside Mobile Airport Authority property boundaries is beyond its purview, the Authority is pleased to work with community partners in the best interest of the region.
Q20: What will you do to reduce the impact on climate change?
A20: Impacts associated with climate change will be explored in the environmental analysis that will occur in the next phase of development beyond the Master Plan.
Q21: Is the airport downtown subject to flooding and wind damage?
A21: The Mobile Downtown Airport is subject to flooding and impacts from tropical storms, as are all area coastal properties, and these impacts will be assessed fully in the environmental analysis that will occur in the next phase of development beyond the Master Plan.
Q22: What studies specifically related to the history and pre-history of the site have been performed in relation to the proposed move from the existing Mobile Regional Airport?
A22: The Master Plan includes a section on the history of Mobile Aviation including the airport locations. Any studies of pre-history that are required will be conducted as part of the environmental analysis that will occur in the next phase of development.
Q23: What are the direct flights currently?
A23: At this time, there are direct flights to Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Dallas Fort Worth, TX; Houston, TX from the Mobile Regional Airport.
Q24: Can we try to recruit Spirit and Silver Airways to try the downtown Mobile airport?
A24: The Mobile Airport Authority has met multiple times over the past three years with Spirit and Silver Airways to encourage them to provide service to Mobile and is committed to continuing these negotiations.
Q25: Can we get flights to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami and Orlando to spur passenger growth from the nearby Gulf Cities of Biloxi, Pensacola and Mobile?
A25: Those destinations rank extremely high on the Mobile Airport Authority’s priority list, based on the demand from customers in our region. MAA will continue to pursue the airlines they feel are most likely to serve these destinations.
Q26: What’s going on with Frontier Airlines?
A26: The Mobile Airport Authority is thankful to Frontier for investing in Mobile and for proving the concept illustrated in the 2018 feasibility study. Since the opening of the Mobile Downtown Airport on May 1, 2019, Frontier served more than 40,000 passengers. The Frontier experience provided MAA with a lot of data it can use to recruit other low-cost carriers for the Mobile Downtown Airport terminal. In addition, interest from the bigger carriers is due, in part, to Frontier. Frontier flights at Mobile Downtown Airport in 2019 were 60% filled with Baldwin travelers, compared with 10% at Mobile Regional. In the first half of 2020, the Boeing 737 Max grounding and the global pandemic provided serious challenges to airlines that are remaining as flexible as possible to weather these storms until the market fully rebounds.
Q27: Are there smaller airlines willing to start BFM service to/from Huntsville, Birmingham, Memphis, Jacksonville, FL, Tampa, New Orleans, Monterey, MX?
A27: MAA is not aware of any smaller airlines that are willing to start service to those cities at this time. Several of those destinations are close enough to drive or do not have high demand for direct service from this market.
Q28: What are the statistics of the current Mobile Regional terminal compared to the planned Mobile Downtown terminal?
A28: The present terminal at Mobile Regional Airport is approximately 162,500 sf. The proposed terminal at Mobile Downtown Airport is 132,000 sf of useable space. When factoring in additional mechanical/ electrical/ plumbing space needs and general maintenance areas, the Downtown terminal reaches roughly the same square footage as the existing terminal. We anticipate a smaller passenger terminal area is needed for the future based on newer technologies for passenger check-in, hold room dimensions, and security.
Q29: Will there be a multi-deck parking garage to utilize the tight space versus flat/asphalt parking around Brookley?
A29: Yes, the new Master Plan includes plans for a 5-floor parking garage for passengers and rental cars that will be built out in phases according to Planning Activity Levels (PALS). The Master Plan is offered in PALS, rather than time frames, to adapt to changing conditions. At this time, the new terminal at Mobile Downtown Airport is planned to open with surface parking, with the parking garage development expected in PAL 2.
Q30: Are movable walls being considered in the design of the terminal for flexibility with changing conditions?
A30: Design features will be addressed in the next phase of the terminal project, but the Mobile Airport Authority will be interested in all features that can maximize flexibility.
Q31: Do you plan to use best practices for construction of the new terminal (e.g., LEED certification)?
A31: Construction methods will be determined in a future phase beyond the Master Plan, but it is envisioned that best practices will be employed in the design phase. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is certainly an option.
Q32: What are the top 10 destinations for air travelers to/from the Mobile area not currently served by air service?
A32: New York, Washington/Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Orlando, Seattle, and Boston.
Q33: What are the top 10 desired domestic destinations by travelers to/from the Mobile area?
A33: New York, Chicago, Washington/Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, Denver, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Houston.
Q34: What are the top 10 desired international destinations by travelers to/from the Mobile area?
A34: Philippines, Toronto, London, Frankfurt, Cancun, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Saigon, and Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Q35: What international destinations are most viable for us today, why, and what do we need to do as a city to get there?
A35: Based on passenger activity, our top two international destinations are the Philippines and Toronto, however, international flight operations would most likely begin with Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Q36: What can we do as a community to grow the airport to international status?
A36: We must first begin by building Federal Inspection Services at the Mobile Downtown Airport so that Customs and Border Protection can locate here to provide services for processing passengers and cargo. In addition, the Mobile Airport Authority has a tremendous opportunity to coordinate its marketing efforts with the maritime tourist industry serving Mobile regarding the international marketplace. Future service to/from international markets could be achieved, perhaps, on a seasonal basis. Finally, regional community support is always key to supporting airport growth.
Q37: Are you working with the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and Carnival Cruise Lines to see how you can pitch the airport and its location for new flights? Are all these entities working together on this?
A37: The Mobile Airport Authority has a good working relationship with the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, Visit Mobile and Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance. Prior to the emergence of Covid-19 and during Frontier Airlines’ tenure here, MAA was in communication with the cruise line and, once they are operational again, will continue to explore mutual benefits.
Q38: What are the expected impacts to property values for nearby residents? Should we continue to invest in our homes or should we expect depreciation?
A38: The Mobile Airport Authority believes that economic benefits associated with an improved Mobile Downtown Airport will increase the value of neighboring homes and properties. There are a number of examples of other areas that have benefited from improved airports, including Houston (Hobby) and Chicago (Midway). Although Houston Hobby is not a new airport, it was revamped several years ago to accommodate passenger service. The neighborhoods surrounding Hobby Airport -- considered a haven for first-time home buyers -- have seen a steady increase in mid-range home values, according to the Houston Association of Realtors.
Q39: Will MAA or another agency provide stimulus for supporting related businesses like retail, hotels, restaurants, and would those businesses be expected to contribute?
A39: The Mobile Airport Authority, along with state and local governments, would evaluate stimulus opportunities as the need surfaces.
Q40: Is there demand for a hotel on the BFM property?
A40: The Mobile Airport Authority will be looking at non-aviation commercial opportunities in its on-airport development plan implementation.
Q41: What plans will be in place in order to accommodate future growth (additional runways, terminal, parking decks, traffic access/flow)?
A41: The Master Plan addresses the 20-year aviation requirements for airfield, terminal/landside facilities, and surface access in 5-year Planning Activity Levels.
Q42: Will you assertively work to employ those in the neighboring areas, encouraging youth interest in the industry?
A42: Yes, the Mobile Airport Authority supports and encourages youth interest in Aviation. We currently support summer youth programs and have provided internships working in concert with other local organizations. We also seek to employ residents from our region.
Q43: How do you plan to support minority businesses?
A43: The Mobile Airport Authority has an active Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) and Airport Concessionaire Disadvantage Business Program (ACDBE) as required by the Federal Aviation Administration since we are the recipients of federal funding. We also mandate a certain level of DBE participation for those companies hired to perform construction and other related projects on the Airport. In addition, we sponsor a minority business outreach program on an annual basis to educate and inform minority businesses of future opportunities.
Q44: Is the downtown site too busy/constrained/unsightly with industrial activity?
A44: Presently, the Brookley Aeroplex contains an Industrial Airport focused on aircraft assembly and aviation support activities that are critical to regional economic growth and jobs. While there are many aviation and non-aviation users on the site, there is also an interim commercial passenger terminal for Low Cost Carriers. The current Master Plan addresses how the relocation of commercial traffic to the Mobile Downtown Airport at the Brookley Aeroplex can be accomplished in an orderly, coordinated and aesthetic manner over time that accommodates all these aviation-related businesses that make Mobile a world-class city.
Q45: What purpose does a “Multi-Use Aviation Area” serve?
A45: The Multi-Use Aviation Area designation addresses those areas in the Master Plan where aviation-related businesses can be located, such as Fixed Based Operators, corporate hangars, and other aviation-related activities.
Q46: What are the costs and funding sources?
A46: The full Master Plan includes Development Plan and Financial Plan sections that identify the proposed development projects within each Planning Activity Level and the potential funding sources that are anticipated to include airport improvement program grants, state grants, passenger facility charges and local funding from airport revenue and issuance of bonds to be repaid from airport revenue. We expect the full Master Plan to be available for public viewing in Fall 2020.
Q47: Are there cost breakdowns available between the cost of the terminal and the total anticipated cost?
A47: The Development Plan section of the full Master Plan identifies the projected cost of the proposed development projects at Mobile Downtown Airport for the 20-year planning period grouped by 5-year Planning Activity Levels (PALs). Within each PAL, projects are grouped by passenger terminal complex, airfield, ground transportation and parking, and additional airport areas. We expect the full Master Plan to be available for public viewing in Fall 2020.
FUTURE USE OF MOBILE REGIONAL
Q48: Would you consider pitching the Mobile Regional Airport to Amazon, UPS, FedEx or other online retailers to use as their hub?
A48: This is an interesting concept that we have explored and will continue to do so. Infrastructure improvements to the roads outside of the Airport would be a necessary component of such a negotiation.
Q49: What are the plans for Mobile Regional Airport once airlines transition to using Downtown Airport?
A49: It is anticipated that all other aviation activity, besides commercial air passenger traffic, would continue, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s use of facilities. The Mobile Airport Authority will be further considering the best use of the substantial land base there.
Q50: Is the feasibility study available for review?
A50: Yes, the 2018 feasibility study is available on the Master Plan website at maamasterplan.com.
Q51: Is the Master Plan available for review?
A51: Yes the Master Plan presented in the final public webinar on August 4, 2020, is available on the Master Plan website at maamasterplan.com, along with previous presentations made to the Mobile Airport Authority’s Technical Advisory Committee and Community Advisory Committee. The full Master Plan should also be available on the website in the Fall 2020.
Q52: Have you identified cities for new service and talked with your peer organizations in those cities? Have you thought about creating air service contracts between cities and have airlines bid to fly those seats negotiated by the cities and not the airlines (in a sense, cities will then control the air service schedules and not the airlines)?
A52: We have identified new cities and talked with organizations in those cities. Some of those are New York, Washington D.C., Denver and Baltimore. The Airport has not thought of creating air service contracts between cities, but it is an interesting concept.
Q53: What is the date affected tenants will be impacted by the plan?
A53: The Master Plan is laid out in 4 Planning Activity Levels (PALS) of 5 years each, as opposed to specific dates, so the Mobile Airport Authority can proceed with the development of the Mobile Downtown Airport according to market conditions. The MAA will be coordinating individually with those tenants who are impacted by the plan.
Q54: Will MAA provide alternative space for impacted tenants on the Brookley complex?
A54: Yes, it is the Mobile Airport Authority’s intention to offer alternative space for any tenants on the Brookley complex that may be impacted in their current location.