YOUNGSTOWN-WARREN REGIONAL AIRPORT Airline ponders departure



The decision has not been made yet, officials say.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
VIENNA -- Vacation Express is considering ending flights from the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport after the company's initial six-month commitment to the airport ends.
The Atlanta, Ga.-based company began offering flights to Sanford, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., in April, fueled in part by a $300,000 subsidy from the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the airport.
"They are reviewing to see if this will be a viable flight stage for them," airport interim director Steve Bowser said.
The company has said it will need an additional $50,000 to $150,000 to continue the service for three or four more months, he said.
The port authority, which runs the airport, has the funds available but has not made any commitments, he said. The port authority is hoping that another company -- perhaps Hooters Air or Aviation Technologies, the company that manages flights for Vacation Express -- will take over the route if Vacation Express leaves.
"The decision to stay or exit the Youngstown market is still under review," said Vacation Express spokesman Ron Slotin. "If Vacation Express decides to exit the market, there are other airlines negotiating to take over the route."
Vacation Express is accepting reservations through December for Youngstown-Sanford flights. Service to Myrtle Beach will be suspended next month for the fall season, in keeping with previously announced plans.
Vacation Express, which serves 11 cities, twice changed its schedule to fill the planes from Youngstown. This summer, it made Youngstown a stop-over for flights from Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa., rather than a direct destination. More recently, Florida flights were shifted from Monday to Saturday in an effort to pick up more travelers.
Should Vacation Express pull out, Bowser said the port authority hopes a replacement airline will take over the route to Sanford, which he says is a popular destination for local vacationers.
"You would hope that with the help of experience we have built up, you would see how they would maximize and expand over time," Bowser said.
There have been no new developments with Hooters Air, despite hopeful signs a few weeks ago.
"We are still touching base, but we are not really sure what the time line is there," Bowser said.

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