By Dominic Welling
Houston Airport System is set to transform Ellington International Airport into a ‘spaceport’ for wealthy passengers who want to travel into space.
Speaking at a discussion on airline consolidation at AAAE’s 83rd Annual Conference and Exposition in Atlanta, Diaz said that airports have to “start thinking outside the box” in an attempt to attract carriers in the future.
He added that one of the ways Houston Airport System is set to diversify its offering is by transforming Ellington International Airport, into a ‘spaceport’ offering passengers trips into space.
Currently used by the US military, NASA, and some general aviation tenants, Diaz said that HAS will leverage the strength of the space companies in the region, and get the airport licensed by the FAA to function as a spaceport.
In the future, Ellington, which was acquired by the city of Houston in 1984, will offer paying customers trips into space at a cost of around $50,000 per seat. Diaz said that although this might sound expensive, some people would happily pay for it, and travel far and wide for the experience.
Diaz said: “Airports are Economic Development Engines. Airport officials should embrace the larger community and work on its economic development and airlines will come.
“In my opinion it is not a case of the chicken and the egg dilemma – which comes first, the businesses or the air service. Instead airports should pursue both at the same time. Work on economic development, attract companies, while at the same time pursue other airlines.”
Houston will not be the first airport system to offer paying customers trips into suborbital space.
In 2009, the state of New Mexico revealed it would fund $140 million towards the construction of a complex known as Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.
The green light for the project was given after Sir Richard Branson signed a 20-year contract to base the world’s first spaceline, Virgin Galactic, at the 27sq mile spaceport when it was completed.