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Officials ponder future service



Published: Wed, July 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The airline pays about $90,000 a year to the airport.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

VIENNA -- Airport officials are reconsidering the type of service that can be successful here after yet another passenger service has asked for a one-way ticket out.

"The Valley has spoken, and a flight to Pittsburgh is not what they want," said Thomas Nolan, director of aviation at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

USAirways Express is not taking reservations for flights between Youngstown and Pittsburgh after Oct. 16.

The company that operates the route, Mesa Airlines, has asked USAirways for permission to pull out, a company spokeswoman confirmed.

The four-times-daily flights aboard USAirways' small, commuter aircraft attracted about 1,000 passengers a month, Nolan said.

"People will not fly to a place they can so easily drive to," said Reid Dulberger, treasurer of the port authority, which operates the airport, and of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce.

"We need to provide services to places consumers can't drive to readily."

Study results expected: Within the next few weeks, the port authority expects to get the results of a $45,000 study by a Washington, D.C., consulting firm about how to best market and use the airport. The board may try to attract carriers for longer flights, to New York, Chicago or Washington D.C., Dulberger said.

Nolan said he has asked USAirways Express to consider putting in a flight from Youngstown to its hub in Chicago.

"There are so many alternatives," he said.

Two-times-daily service was offered to Chicago until 1999, when United Express Feeder Service went bankrupt. Continental ended its four-times-daily service to Cleveland four years ago, Nolan said.

Recent improvements: The airport spent $1.5 million remodeling the passenger area, increasing the number of gates from two to six as part of an $40 million improvement package over the last five years.

"It is frustrating," said Michael O'Brien, a Trumbull County commissioner. Trumbull and Mahoning counties contribute $454,000 in airport subsidies each year.

"We are just going to have to turn up the marketing efforts after this setback," he said.

Mahoning County commissioners will likely talk to authorities at the airport and in local industry to gauge the impact of the change, said Gary Kubic, county administrator.

Financial blow: The loss of a carrier would be a blow not only to the airport's prestige, but also to its bottom line.

Among gate rental, landing fees and fuel sales, USAirways Express pays $50,000 to $60,000 a year to the airport, about 5 percent of its operations budget, Nolan said.

An additional $36,000 a year flowed into the airport's coffers for capital improvements from a per-passenger fee levied by the airline and losing those passengers will hurt parking and rental car concessions, said Reid Dulberger.

"It is not good news," he said.

siff@vindy.com




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