The end of Allegiant Air service in Gary doesn't mean the airport itself is flawed. It does mean, however, the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority will have to be both aggressive and cautious in the future.
The current runway expansion project will make the airport more attractive to airlines once it's completed. The longer runway will allow planes fully loaded with fuel to leave the airport and head for the West Coast.
Allegiant put a toe in the water in Gary but never fully jumped in. The airline's destinations were limited by the runway, but that won't be the case when the expansion is complete.
The airline offered service just two days a week. Despite hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars spent by the airport, as well as by Allegiant, sales weren't strong enough.
"We are always disappointed to end service in a community," Allegiant said in a statement requested by The Times. "The airport has been a great partner to us, but unfortunately, we were not seeing a strong demand in the market, and we have a responsibility to use our resources where they are most successful."
Most robust service, enabled by the longer runway, could mean stronger customer demand.
A sharp director able to attract and keep airlines will help, too. Once the runway work is done, there will be fewer physical limitations. The pressure will be on to attract not just one airline, but several, willing to operate out of Gary.
And then the region's travelers must do their part and support the convenient service out of Gary.
The Airport Authority is seeking applications for the director's job. It must be aggressive in setting expectations but cautious in its hiring to make sure it gets the right person for the job.
This airport isn't just about passenger service, but that's an important part of Federal Aviation Administration funding and thus must be an important part of the airport's future.
Hopefully, the completion of the runway and aggressive recruiting efforts will draw Allegiant back, as well as other airlines' regularly scheduled passenger flights, in the future.