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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Toolkit for Establishing Airport Catchment Areas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27424.
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Page 10
Page 11
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Toolkit for Establishing Airport Catchment Areas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27424.
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Page 11
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Toolkit for Establishing Airport Catchment Areas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27424.
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Page 12

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10 Introduction This section provides background concerning airport catchment areas. It aims to answer three questions: • What is an airport catchment area? • What factors could affect the shape and size of airport catchment areas? • How does the catchment area affect the business decisions of stakeholders? Users are recommended to read this section before conducting a preliminary analysis. Definition The catchment area of an airport encompasses areas where residents and businesses are more likely to fly to and from the subject airport, even when there are other airport options in the vicinity. The airport catchment area is a geographic concept, and its boundary typically represents the geographic area within which airline passengers choose to use the subject airport. Within the airport catchment area, the “strength” of the airport’s influence is not constant. The airport radiates its influence to all the neighborhoods within the boundary of its catchment, and such influence wanes as the distance from that area to the airport increases. An airport may have different versions of catchment areas, depending on the actual scenarios. For instance, the catchment area of an airport for outbound travelers may be different from that for inbound visitors. This toolkit deals specifically with outbound catchment areas unless we otherwise indicate. Contribution Factors The shape and size of an airport catchment area could be dependent on many different factors, for instance, its ground access, flight options at other nearby airports, operating carriers, travelers’ trip purposes, and destinations. We will briefly discuss the contribution of these factors here and provide a more in-depth analysis in subsequent sections. • Operating carriers Air services provided by airlines determines how attractive an airport is to travelers. For a large-hub airport served by multiple airlines providing direct services to many international and domestic destinations, its catchment area is expected to be much larger than that of a smaller airport only connected to a handful of destinations. Similarly, airports served by low-cost or ultra-low-cost carriers may draw from larger catchment areas as passengers are willing to drive further to take advantage of lower fares.

11 • Competition Thanks to the national highway system, the majority of US residents have access to more than one airport when it comes to commercial aviation. Therefore, the proximity of and air service offered at nearby airports, especially hub airports, largely determine the size of an airport’s catchment area. In some large metropolitan areas, such as Greater New York and Southern California, the catchment area of a medium or small-hub airport would be much smaller than that of a similar airport in the Midwest or mountain states. • Ground access Airport ground access plays a significant role in determining the airport catchment area. An airport with convenient access will easily reach out to distant neighborhoods as most travelers will measure the ease of access by traveling time rather than simply by physical distance. Also, airports that are accessible via public transit would be preferred by travelers who wish to avoid the hustle of driving and parking. • Destinations Destinations may also affect travelers’ choices of departing airports, thus influencing the catchment area of an airport. Generally speaking, travelers are more likely to commute longer distances to access an airport for international destinations or long-haul domestic destinations. In such cases, the catchment area of the airport will be larger than other circumstance. Implications Knowing the shape and size of the catchment area of an airport helps the airport and its key stakeholders understand locations where travelers are likely to commute to the airport to start their trips. Analyzing catchment areas is critical for an airport in that • The catchment area is an important input for the airport master plan. Coupled with the regional economic outlook, catchment area analysis results can be used to project long-term traveling demand for the subject airport, thus guiding the infrastructure development plan of the airport. • New business development depends on the results of a catchment area analysis. Travelers dependent businesses that wish to operate in or near the airport rely on catchment area analysis to build their potential customer profiles and plan their business activities. • Catchment area analysis allows air carriers better-informed route planning. Along with other market insights, catchment area analysis enables airlines to assess the outlook of starting new routes or making changes to existing operations. • Catchment area analysis helps an airport better understand its customers. This is achieved through joining the results of catchment area analysis with other studies, such as market research, census, and customer surveys. • Catchment area analysis facilitates location-based marketing campaigns. Knowing the origins of travelers, airports could direct marketing resources more accurately to the target market for more effective promotions.

12 • Catchment area analysis empowers better intermodal transportation access to airports. Airports that understand the regional origin and destination points of their passengers can better anticipate ground access needs (such as parking capacity requirements), identify access gaps that could be filled by new ground access services (such as long-haul bus services serving remote park & ride lots, such as the LAX FlyAway or Boston’s Logan Express Service), and refine their parking pricing and product strategies as they would have a better understanding of the prices and services offered by competing access services.

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The catchment area of an airport encompasses areas where passengers are more likely to use the subject airport, even when there are other airport options in the vicinity.

ACRP Web-Only Document 56: Toolkit for Establishing Airport Catchment Areas, from TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program, comprises various analytical tools, such as the Travel Utility Analysis tool, that enable airport industry practitioners to calculate the likely responses of travelers to different market and operational inputs, thus forecasting potential catchment areas for airports.

Supplemental to the report are three case studies: Case 1: Akron-Canton Airport (CAK), OH; Case 2: Ontario International Airport (ONT), CA; and Case 3: Albert J. Ellis Airport (OAJ), NC.

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