Albert J. Ellis Airport receives grant to expand air service

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Onslow County Airport could have new direct connection to Dallas, Texas

RICHLANDS, N.C. – Flyers at the Albert J. Ellis Airport may have an expanded choice for a destination in the future.

The Department of Transportation has issued a grant under the Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) to support efforts to expand air service between Jacksonville and other regional transportation hubs. This funding will support continued economic growth in the Onslow County region, expand opportunities for travelers and encourage increased competition.  

According to an NCDOT study published in 2021, OAJ supports over 3,460 jobs in the area and generates over $565M in economic activity producing almost $20M annually in state and local taxes. It is anticipated that these numbers will rise with additional passengers and choices especially when passengers find service at OAJ increasingly more convenient. 

Improving air service has been an ongoing effort by the County and is vital to the community as it will attract additional jobs, open the region to more business and tourism, and increase easy access to other parts of the US. This grant targets service to Dallas in part because central Texas is popular with travelers and approximately 50% of airport passengers are destined for cities west of the Mississippi. A midcontinent connection in Dallas would make westbound travel easier and more expedient. A flight to DFW would further increase the number of one-stop destinations by 35% from 229 to 310. Convenience is a key element for travelers as they choose their departure airport, and this is one of many steps OAJ has undertaken to provide for a safe, healthy, and easy travel experience. 

The Airport previously turned a similar grant into long-term air service. In 2005 the County received a SCASDP grant and was successful in attracting Delta Air Lines in 2007, a service that continues to this day. These grants are combined with fee waivers and local marketing investments. They are intended to help airlines mitigate the large financial risk associated with starting a new air service and it funds part of the initial marketing effort needed to inform the community about the new flights. As other airports have experienced expanding air service often attracts other new services, so the value of this new tool can’t be understated. 

“This program has successfully brought new and expanded air service to many cities and with the community’s support we will bring similar success to our area,” said Airport Director Chris White. “Ultimately, air service development is economic development creating jobs and building our community’s capacity with the added benefit of connecting families and friends. I look forward to the opportunity to fly direct to the lone star state from OAJ.”  

In recent months the Airport J. Ellis Airport has seen traffic rebound to pre-pandemic levels driven in part by historic beach tourism, families reuniting, and increasing construction activity around the region. Over 9.3 million passengers have flown through OAJ over the past 50 years and despite the pandemic in FY2021 over 271,000 passengers visited the airport. 

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