Episode 4 Join us on this episode of the Mobile Matters podcast as Bradley Burns, CEO of the Mobile Chamber, talks with Chris Curry, president of the Mobile Airport Authority. Discover new direct flight routes, updates on the Brookley terminal, and the impact on Mobile’s connectivity and economy. Don’t miss this insightful episode!

Listen Here


Hello and welcome to the Mobile Matters podcast, powered by the Mobile Chamber, where we’re diving deeper into important topics that make a significant impact on Mobile’s thriving business community. I’m your host and president and CEO of the Mobile Chamber, Bradley Burns. Today, we’re sitting down with Chris Curry, and this is a real treat, everybody.

He is the president of the Mobile Airport Authority, where they’ve announced several new direct routes in the last few months, on top of constructing a new terminal at Brookly, downtown. So, big deal. Welcome, Chris Curry. Great to have you. Great to be here. Um, and, and, I just want to say before we get started, um, if you’re new to the program, Our relationship with you and the Airport Authority is so great, and we just appreciate everything about y’all.

You’re a great partner of ours, and we try to be a great partner of yours, because we know how important you are to the community. So, I know you would think all of us would know what the Airport Authority is, but a lot of us don’t. So, just sort of in very basic terms, what is the Airport Authority? Well, the Mobile Airport Authority is a quasi governmental agency.

Uh, we have seven members now on the board, disappointed by the mayor and confirmed by city council. Uh, we own and operate three airports, uh, two are commercial, one is general aviation, and an Aeroplex. So the Mobile Regional Airport is our main and primary commercial service airport. This one at Airport Boulevard.

With United Deltan American Airlines service today. Uh, the Mobile International Airport is home to Breeze Airways, uh, that serves Orlando, and the St. Elmo Airport is the general aviation airport that’s located by Grand Bay. The Aeroplex, uh, which is attached to the Mobile International Airport, is currently about 400 acres of property, uh, it, it is its own cost center, and we’re looking to add about 300 more acres to that, uh, particular cost center in the near future.

Great. Well, all three of those locations are important, and certainly we love having regional, but we’re going to move those airlines that are present at regional. To downtown for the international airport is how we should say it. Yes. So what’s the current status of construction on the new airport? So we started construction about a year and a half ago I mean, we recently started the erection of steel which most people see as construction but a year and a half ago We started with the relocation of tenants Some environmental and utility work that was necessary for us to get to where we are today We know this new terminal will make the airport more convenient for travelers out of Mobile and Balma Counties.

Tell us more about what you see as the benefits of moving to downtown. Well, I think there are several and a lot of these were, uh, certainly shown through the feasibility study that we started years ago. So, one was moving the airport downtown brought it closer to the population base. As you mentioned, City of Mobile and Baldwin County.

And the location of the airport made it easily accessible from Interstate 65 and I 10. Uh, probably the third, and maybe the most important, is also our co location to the Port of Mobile. So we see that somewhere in the future, Uh, that we really have the opportunity to be a multi modal, uh, transportation system, and we have access to class one railroads through the Mobile International Airport as well.

That’s so cool. You stop, stop thinking about it. We have a major, fastest growing port in the country, with all this rail opportunity, two interstates, and now this airport that’s tucked right in there with it. I was in a meeting with Visit Mobile. They had an international consultant that said. Mobile is having great growth in tourism, but this move is going to turbocharge our tourism.

So it’s having a direct impact on our economy. It is. I mean, the, the focus at least initially has been on the passenger element, but the future is much, much greater than just passenger. Yeah, no, we see that too. So, Part of the thing that we see about economic development is that it’s going to give us an opportunity to recruit some people that we can’t recruit right now because they want better airline access.

So, spin that out for us. You’ll be interacting with airlines to try to get more airlines and more destinations here. How do you see us bringing in more people that are not just here to be tourists but here to do business? Well, I think, you know, the business market is certainly looking for, for much more connectivity and, um, you know, being partners with groups like the Chamber, Visit Mobile, Chambers in Baldwin County.

We can understand the businesses that are coming into this community. And so what we try to do then with our meetings with airlines is we continually update them on new businesses and potential opportunities. In the future, you know, the airlines have all the same data that we have, but they don’t necessarily know what opportunities are forthcoming.

And so, uh, the businesses that are coming into the area, uh, the leisure, uh, group that’s coming into the area, and just the overall attraction to Alabama is all connected, uh, for us to get better, better air service in the community. One of the things you, one of the things you told me was is that you need to know where people are moving from when they’re moving from out of town here because even though they’ve moved here they’re going to go back or their friends or family going to come here.

So we’re going to try to capture that data for you, but it seems to me like it’s sort of a mutual beneficial relationship between Visit Mobile, you, and us. And sharing all that information is how you’re going to know what you need to know, you know, the airlines to say, Hey, we got a new destination for you.

We think these people are going to come in here. Yeah, that’s that’s correct. I mean, that is one of the easiest ways for airlines to identify connections between cities is you have your business connects, you have your friends and family visiting, and they put those together. And if it works from both sides, then there’s a great opportunity to expand your service.

Well, we certainly want to make sure that all of your lines are working well. We’re particularly interested on Breeze because we know if Breeze does well with the present route, we’ve got an opportunity for them to grow. And I gather that’s something you continue to work on every day. Yeah, Breeze is certainly very exciting for us because, you know, one, they fly the A220 aircraft that are built here, but they have a great, leisure presence that continue to expand.

And with the aircraft type that they have, they can give us connections to cities that we never thought were possible from mobile. Well, people don’t notice with a 2 20 was designed for that sort of intermediate type travel and it’s bigger inside than your typical aircraft like that. So it’s a much more comfortable, much more appealing experience.

Oh, yes, it is. And it and it provides midsize communities. Access to markets that are much further away, like Los Angeles and Las Vegas, while only carrying 137 passengers. So, very, very, uh, much, very fuel efficient. Um, and certainly the most modern aircraft in the industry. So, what you hear us talking about Breeze, folks, we’re not just talking about Breeze because we’re trying to get some extra ad space for Breeze.

It’s in our interest for Breeze to do well. No, no doubt about it. You know, in in Mobile’s market, you know what? We’ve done a pretty good job with over the years of serving the business traveler, but not so much to leisure travelers. So it’s always great to have an airline like Breeze Airways that come into the community because then it gives you a chance to really serve all of the customers of your community and not just some.

That’s right. Uh, David Clark, who runs Visit Mobile, and I are going to go to Providence, Rhode Island, because we want to tell them about why they should come here, and of course, we want to know why our folks would want to go there. There’s a lot that you can access from there. We’ll talk about that in the next segment.

So let’s take a brief sponsor break, but when we come back, we’re going to hear about the two new direct routes we’ve just been talking about, and what more might be coming. We’ll be right back.

One of the principal ways that the Mobile Chamber has helped our business here at Silverships has been with recruitment. The exposure we received from the Chamber from winning Small Business of the Year taught a lot of people about Silverships, who we are, where we are. And that has really helped our recruitment drive through this, uh, growth we’ve had over the last few years.

Thank you, Chamber. For more information about joining the Chamber, visit mobilechamber. com.

We’re back on the Mobile Matters podcast. We’re here with Chris Curry from the Mobile Airport Authority. So Chris, we all want more flights, more destinations. So what can the ordinary citizen do to help you get us more flights, more destinations? Well, the best thing that the ordinary citizen can do is really support Uh, the service when it comes to your community.

So for example, uh, an airline like Breeze Airways that started Orlando, well, they’re looking at the community response to Orlando. If the community responds very quickly, support the air service, then they will continue to add routes to that service. If the community does not, of course they will leave, right?

So, um, it’s very difficult for airlines to start a new route because There’s no real data. Uh, fortunately for us, in Orlando’s case, we have, you know, the data that was surprised from Avello, that Breeze looked at the market and said we know that should be an easy uh, route that would be successful for Mobile.

But the best thing that community can do is Let us know what you want, and this community does a very good job at that. Uh, but once, uh, an airline comes in and serves, um, it has to be supported. Right. So, that initial flight on Breeze was April 10th, and I understand you were actually on it. How was the experience?

It was great. Uh, the A220 is a great aircraft. Uh, it has first class seating, so there’s 137 seats. Thanks. Twelve are premium, uh, uh, seats on the aircraft, and it really felt like you were on a much larger aircraft. Brand new, uh, the service is great, uh, no complaints. We’ve definitely upgraded our product.

Yeah, people in this area would need to start thinking about going to Orlando. It’s a great place, lots to do in Orlando to have fun. But you did mention this, so, part of that service is, is that you fly to Orlando and you stay on the plane, and you, what they say, fly through, you go up to Providence, Rhode Island.

And a lot of people don’t know much about Providence, but from Providence, you can get, what, about an hour drive to Boston? That’s correct. And an easy drive to a lot of the rest of New England, so it opens up New England for us. It’s one of the easiest ways to get into Boston, and I would add also that going to Orlando, um, helped me Brightline Rail Service is in Orlando.

So, you can fly breeze into Orlando. And take the high speed rail over to West Palm and also go down to Fort Lauderdale in Miami. So there’s many different options once you get to Orlando. It opens up a lot of Florida to you, doesn’t it? That’s correct. So I really encourage people to consider all those alternatives.

And like I say, a lot of people down here don’t have an easy connection to New England and New England is a great part of the country. If you haven’t spent much time up there for us to have this kind of service there. That’s really a pretty big deal. So you mentioned this earlier, but these planes are made in mobile.

How old is that? That our, one of the, one of our airlines is actually flying planes that are made right here. A lot of pride in that from a lot of the people that live around here in there. They are. And, and, and again, I think that was one of the great things about that inaugural flight to new, I mean, to Orlando was that you had a lot of Airbus employees on that flight.

Right. And so. So those guys that actually built the aircraft had a chance to fly on it. And I thought that was something that was real special. But, you know, that’s another point of pride, you know, it’s really great. Okay. One of the reasons why I’ve always been supportive of, of trying to get some new destinations is that I used to have to go a lot more, but I still go to Washington some, and it’s really a pain in the neck to have to fly through Atlanta, Atlanta, when now we’ve got direct servers coming later this month.

via United Airlines to Washington, D. C. Tell us about that. Well, you’re correct, and, uh, you know, we started working on Washington, D. C. service seven years ago. And I’ve been here seven years. And Washington is, I think, our number one underserved market. And so, for us to get service into Dulles, Uh, Dulles gives us, you know, two for the price of one.

You get access to the city of Washington, but you also have great connectivity for Star Alliance customers to Europe. And so that is a, that is a really big deal for us. They’ll fly seven days a week, uh, twice a day. Uh, so we’re very excited about that opportunity because when you’re connecting through a major international hub, it connects mobile to the world.

It really does. I’ve actually flown out of Dulles to Europe, and gosh, you can get just about anywhere in Europe from Dulles. So, literally, Mobile to Dulles, Dulles to wherever you want to go in Europe. It’s a great boom for people in Mobile. But I’m going to reverse it, so we’re recruiting some European companies headquarters here.

Uh, their American headquarters here. That’s also only one stop for them to come to Mobile. So, somewhere in Germany, somewhere in France, somewhere in Finland. To Dulles, Dulles to Mobile. That makes Mobile a lot more attractive as a place for them to locate their corporate headquarters. We’re pretty excited about that.

Yeah, very easy access. You know, I read an article in the magazine about a month ago and it said that Mobile was recommended as one of the top places to visit and United Airlines has made it much easier because of the D. C. service direct to Mobile. So it hits on both the business and leisure side of the market.

You know, when I listened to that, uh, presentation at VisitMobile, one of the things that I was struck by is how many international visitors we’re beginning to get, and it’s over our cultural tourism, things like Africatown, which has gotten to be very popular, and ecotourism, which has gotten to be pretty popular as well.

So a lot of times we sell ourselves short here. We’re a destination, and adding Dulles gives us an opportunity to attract a lot of people from Europe to come here. Which is cool since we’re a city founded by the French and, you know, later by the British and Spanish. Really great. So, um, I gather that you’re not finished trying to find new destinations for us.

And I’m not asking you to give out any secrets here. But can you kind of talk as much as you can about what you’re doing to try to get some more destinations? Well, we have meetings with the airlines at least four times a year. And we know, uh, our top underserved markets. So So, you know, we’re always looking at Chicago, uh, uh, New York, uh, Denver, um, you know, the California area.

I mean, those are sort of no brainers. And when you look at the data where people travel, they’re going there. Whether they go out of Mobile, Pensacola, New Orleans, they’re going to those places. So those are some of the top, uh, destinations that we’re looking for. And we continue to. you know, pound the pavement, uh, to get airlines to do that.

And also, you know, with breeze trying to get them to expand and serve some of those destinations. So that’s kind of the blueprint, uh, in the near future is to try to really hit those underserved markets. Well, you’ve done a great job so far this year, two new destinations. And I predict both of those are really going to be popular with people around here.

So. For somebody that just wants to know more about the Port Authority, who you are, what you’re doing, where would they go to get that information? Well, you could go mobileairportauthority. com. It’ll give you all the information you need. Uh, one of the things that we’re adding, uh, to the site is a bill BFM folder.

You can go there, you can track the progress of the terminal. You can look at time lapse videos of the progress being made. And, uh, as you’re aware, uh, we’re scheduled to complete the terminal. November 2025. So that’s still the date. Still the date. We’re on schedule. We’re on budget so far, and we hope that continues.

Well, Chris, one more one. Thank you for your leadership. I mean, I’ve I’ve watched you since you’ve gotten here. You’ve done more to move the ball on getting that airport port moved than anybody. And we owe you a great debt for that, but also bringing in new airlines, new destinations. That’s so important.

And we can’t wait to be out there with our fabulous ribbon cutting crew to cut the ribbon for you in November of 2025. But we want to emphasize to everybody, don’t wait until 2025. We got a plane flying out of there right now. Take advantage of it. As you heard, the more you take advantage of it, the more likely we’re going to get more flights.

So thank you for coming in. Thank you, and we, uh, We appreciate our partnership with the chamber. Well, same here. Same here. All right, everybody from the heart of the mobile business community. This is the mobile matters podcast.