READY TO BOARD: Kelly J. Fredericks, new president and CEO of the R.I. Airport Corporation, is a western Pennsylvania native and airport-management veteran. He thinks T.F. Green can again reach a goal of 5 million passengers.
New R.I. Airport Corporation President and CEO Kelly Fredericks calls himself a “recovering engineer” who’s embraced the marketing, negotiating and cheerleading duties of a modern airport executive.
As he tries to reverse eight years of passenger declines at T.F. Green Airport in a perilous climate for midsize commercial airports, Fredericks is going to need those people skills.
He arrives in Rhode Island as T.F. Green begins its long-debated $200 million runway expansion and as US Airways-American Airlines accelerates a pattern of airline consolidation that’s reshaping the industry.
Consolidation has already been difficult for airports like Green.
After the proliferation of low-cost carriers swelled smaller airports starting in the 1990s, the recession brought retrenchment and dwindling activity at Manchester-Boston in New Hampshire, Worcester Regional Airport in Massachusetts and Long Island MacArthur Airport in New York.
Armed with a salesman’s optimism and a confidence forged as a Penn State football player, Fredericks thinks T.F. Green is poised for a resurgence.
“We have lost an awful lot of passengers to Boston and we want to put together a strategy that is going to recapture them,” Fredericks said. “I don’t disagree that consolidation will have challenges. But I am going to have a mantra: 5 million passengers is achievable.”
Last year, 3.7 million passengers used T.F. Green, continuing the latest decrease from the airport’s high-water mark of 5.7 million in 2005.
As evidence that traffic has bottomed out, Fredericks pointed to the 4.6 percent increase in passengers using the airport in March compared with March 2012.
The 15,000-passenger March increase came despite a drop in the number of seats airlines flew into and out of the airport, indicating fuller planes. Fredericks said the number of seats was projected to rise again in April.