Mobile’s plan to move its commercial air traffic to a downtown airport cleared a key hurdle on Tuesday as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its approval of the Mobile Airport Authority’s (MAA) Master Plan.
Currently, almost all of Mobile’s commercial flights run through the Mobile Regional Airport, which is 30 minutes west of the city and not close to an interstate.
City and area leaders have been working for years to move passenger flights to the Mobile Downtown Airport at Brookley Aeroplex, which is adjacent to I-10 and a seven-minute drive to downtown Mobile.
“We are grateful for the decisive action by the FAA,” remarked Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson in a statement.
Stimpson added that the FAA’s decision “not only paves the way for citizens to enjoy better flight options and lower ticket fares, but also ensures a bright future for the downtown airport and the Port of Mobile.”
A government study found the City of Mobile loses over half of potential airline customers to nearby cities such as Pensacola and New Orleans.
With the federal approval in hand, development is set to begin on Phase 1 of the Master Plan: construction of the terminal, parking garage, surface parking and tarmac expansion at the downtown airport.
Costs for Phase 1 of the project are currently estimated at $160 million. The 20-year plan calls for more than $400 million in spending on the project.
Chris Curry, Mobile Airport Authority president, remarked in December that 90% of the cost will be shouldered by the FAA while Alabama must produce a 10% match worth around $20 million.
“The FAA’s approval of the master plan for the Mobile Downtown Airport is great news and a big step in the process in enhancing commercial air travel in the region,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) in a release.
The Mobile Downtown Airport, which has the airport code BFM, will be smaller than the current regional airport west of the city, but leaders promise it will be more efficient.
BFM is also adjacent to the Port of Mobile, which will create a transportation hub that advocates say may bring about numerous economic opportunities.
“[M]oving the Mobile Airport downtown will be a win-win for Mobile and the surrounding Gulf Coast region,” noted Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.
A release from the MAA notes that the new terminal at the downtown airport is expected to open in early 2024.
The city announced the purchase of the needed lands surrounding the Brookley Aeroplex in December of 2020.
“When fully operational, the airport will maintain good-paying jobs while providing an increased economic boom for our region and offering additional opportunities to visit the Port City for work and play,” Ivey concluded.