Off to a Flying Start: Local Group Seeks Community Support to Bring Commercial Flights Back to TCL

Approximately 644 people who live in the Tuscaloosa area fly each day. Most fly out of Birmingham. Takeoff TCL believes that’s more than enough to support commercial flights out of TCL. Approximately 644 people who live in the Tuscaloosa area fly each day. Most fly out of Birmingham. Takeoff TCL believes that’s more than enough to support commercial flights out of TCL. Brandie Bowden

Bags packed, check. Boarding pass, check. Driver’s license, check. Carry-on ready, check. Leave hours before the flight in case there is traffic, road construction, or long lines through security, check. But what if that last one was no longer a factor?  What if you could fly right out of Tuscaloosa, eliminating those factors affecting the commute to Birmingham or Atlanta? Takeoff TCL is trying to make that happen. 

TCL is the IATA airport code assigned to the Tuscaloosa National Airport, previously named Tuscaloosa Regional Airport until March of this year. Takeoff TCL is the group spearheading the effort to bring commercial flights back to Tuscaloosa. 

“This is going to benefit the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport, the entire county, and everyone in the surrounding areas,” said Heather Dill, Director of Sales and Marketing at Embassy Suites and Chair of Takeoff TCL. “This would create more jobs around town, not just at the airport, but in hotels and restaurants as well. We really need everyone to get on board and help to get it going.” 

TCL stopped commercial service in 1992, but Takeoff TCL is working to bring it back so that when you book your flights, instead of choosing BHM or ATL as your departure point, you could select TCL just down the road. The committee is in negotiations now with various airlines.  

“You have to sell your city to the airlines to convince them to come,” said Dill. “That’s why it is so important to get statements of support from community members and companies.” 

“I would utilize the airport as much as possible to cut the cost of traveling to BHM,” said Mosell Johnson, Travel Coordinator at Randall-Reilly. For Johnson, this wouldn’t change her process much at all. “The only thing that would change would be that I would not have to shuttle associates to the local airport.”  

Randall-Reilly averages 15-20 travelers each week out of the Tuscaloosa office, but has associates in other offices who travel to Tuscaloosa who would also benefit from utilizing TCL. 

The flights would likely be more expensive, although there haven’t been any dollar amounts mentioned yet. For Johnson and many others that may not matter.  

“Not having to shuttle associates to BHM will cut down on the cost of having a vehicle, gas, and paying a driver,” said Johnson. “I think the cost will level out through the process.”  

Dill agrees. “When you look at the other factors like time to get to the airport, construction, gas, parking, and wear and tear on your vehicle, even though the flight may be more expensive you may actually end up spending less money overall.” 

There are more than 600 air passengers each day from the Tuscaloosa area, and that doesn’t include the students from The University of Alabama. Bringing commercial flights back to Tuscaloosa would initially involve about four flights daily of 50-75 passengers each. That doesn’t include flights coming into the airport. As support and business grows, the possibility of more flights and more airlines grows. Takeoff TCL has received more than 150 statements of support, and their Facebook page has gotten more than 1200 Likes. They need more. But these statements of support are only half of it. 

“One of the biggest roadblocks is funding,” said Dill. The airport will need a major renovation in order to meet all current facility and security requirements. “We have to have community and corporate support for the funding aspect of it.” 

To help bring commercial flights back to Tuscaloosa, submit an online statement of support at takeofftcl.com. You can also sign up for email updates and follow Takeoff TCL on social media. 

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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