For years, those who fly in and out of Cherry Capital Airport have been complaining about high air fares. Even the chamber of commerce has raised a ruckus on behalf of its member businesses, which often pay sky-high rates when they need to get to a distant business opportunity in a hurry.
One of the reasons for high fares, according to the various airlines that have flown in and out of Cherry Capital over the years, is that it has always been hard for them to fly larger jets - which can carry more passengers and thus reduce per-seat costs - in and out of Traverse City.
Often (particularly in the colder months) there aren’t enough bodies to justify using a bigger jet or, when there are - such as in the busy summer months - the airport’s relatively short main runway isn’t big enough to allow fully-loaded planes to get airborne.
Oddly, given our often-harsh winters here, it’s summer - just when airlines can usually fill all the seats they can get and want to carry full passenger loads - that is the problem. The warmer, lighter air of summer provides less lift for the jets so they need more runway, and airlines currently compensate by carrying up to 14 fewer passengers.
That may not sound like a lot on a jet with more than 100 seats, but at $350 or $400 a passenger, giving up 14 tickets per flight can quickly add up to significant lost revenue.
What has made the problem more difficult is that the airport, which was established just a few miles out of town at a time when giant jetliners were just a dream, is essentially landlocked, making an extension difficult. Wetlands to the east make stretching out there untenable; plans to go west have always run, literlly, into Garfied Road, the major north-south artery on the east side of town.