Tulsa area leaders announced a new initiative to bring more non-stop flights to more destinations to Tulsa International Airport on Wednesday.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, leaders of the Chambers of Commerce in Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Bartlesville, along with regional business leaders made the announcement.
They're asking businesses across the region to complete a survey
about their current and future travel needs.
After compiling the data, airport officials will focus their efforts on bringing non-stop service to those destinations most in demand.
Currently, 59 flights leave TIA everyday on American, Southwest, Delta and United airlines. But there are only non-stop flights to 18 airports in 15 cities across the country.
Among those who spoke about the need to bring more non-stop service at Wednesday's news conference was Jay Foley with Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
"Direct airline access is critically important for a patient suffering from cancer to have ease of entry into the Tulsa market," Foley said.
Foley said limited direct access to TIA is limiting patients' access to his hospital.
"Eighty percent of our patients travel from outside the state of Oklahoma to get here; on average, 450 miles one way,' Folly said. "So, we're truly a destination hospital."
Foley says far more patients come here from cities that have direct flights to Tulsa than those that don't.
"A market like Kansas City," he said. "Kansas City doesn't have direct access. And we know that we draw much more heavily from St. Louis [which has direct service) than we do from Kansas City."
But Foley thinks expanding direct service to more cities would make Tulsa a healthcare destination, which is good for business and Tulsa's regional economy.
But the need extends to the oil and gas industry as well.
Jerry Schuyler is President and Chief Operating Officer for Tulsa-based Laredo Petroleum, Inc., and says his company needs more access to Midland, Texas, where most of its operations are. At this point, though, there are no direct flights between Tulsa and Midland.
"We're here because we want to be in Tulsa," Schuyler said. "And we need easy access into the areas where the activity is."
He said the same is true for numerous other Tulsa-based energy companies, as well as companies in town that service oil and gas companies.
But Schuyler says Tulsa's lack of direct flights to Midland has already cost the area jobs. He said Midland-based Concho Energy tapped out its local talent pool and began looking elsewhere for employees.
"They've literally announced in the last six months that they're going to be opening an office in Houston, and it is simply to hire staff that will support their operations in MIdland," he said. "My point is: why not Tulsa?"
Airport officials have the same idea and are now trying to change that. Click here
to fill out the airport's survey.