The National Academies

ACRP 03-58 [Final]

Measuring and Understanding the Relationship Between Air Service and Regional Economic Development

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Research Agency: InterVISTAS Consulting
Principal Investigator: Steve Martin
Effective Date: 5/18/2020
Completion Date: 2/22/2022



Airports and their communities recognize the importance of air service for economic development. This recognition is prompting research to develop measures to understand the relationship between the two and maximize an airport’s contribution to its region’s economic development strategies. Research undertaken for ACRP Report 132: The Role of U.S. Airports in the National Economy examined how air service improvements between regions and selected international markets could benefit the U.S. economy.  The report established a statistical relationship between the national aviation system and the overall economy. Research is needed to extend this research to more clearly define the influence of air service changes on regional economic development and explore the extent to which changes in air service affect productivity in differing industry sectors. This research will enable analysis of the regional economic impacts of air service and provide guidance for communicating results to stakeholders.




The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook and tools (e.g., flowcharts, decision trees, narrative templates, spreadsheets) to help airports and their communities understand, measure, and address the relationship between air service and economic development.


The guidebook should include:

  • Primer describing air service trends and general relationships between air service and regional economic development;
  • Overview of data collection sources and methods;
  • Guidance for selecting and using the tools to meet user requirements, including:
    • Selecting appropriate economic metrics (e.g., gross domestic product, job creation and talent retention, payroll, capital investment, foreign direct investment, tax base, per capita income); and
    • Selecting appropriate air service metrics (e.g., up-gauging, seats, frequency, routes, total travel time, airfares, cargo volume and value);
  • Methods for communicating results to stakeholders;
  • Case studies representing an array of common community sizes, airport activity levels, and air service characteristics for both passenger and cargo service;
  • Glossary of terms; and
  • Listing of additional research and guidance on economic and air service development.

The tools should be designed to allow airports and communities to:

  • Use a variety of metrics to measure how economic and air service changes could impact their community based on their unique air service and community characteristics;
  • Identify which economic sectors (e.g., manufacturing, tourism) are most impacted by air service changes; and
  • Consider qualitative impacts (e.g., quality of life, image enhancement, competitiveness).


Research is complete.  Results published in ACRP WebResource 12.

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