Keeping faith in the airport
It is impossible to put a happy face on the impending end of Vacation Express flights from the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport to points south.
The Western Reserve Port Authority had invested $300,000 in the attempt to establish Youngstown-Warren's first regularly scheduled commercial airline at the airport since Northwest Airlines pulled out two years ago.
There were high hopes that Vacation Express would be able to establish a profitable route. But the fate of the Youngstown flights was tied to the success of Vacation Express flights originating from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
And while flights from Youngstown to the Orlando-Sanford International Airport were 83 percent full and those to Myrtle Beach were at 70-percent capacity, the numbers on the Pennsylvania flights often ran in the 20 to 30 percent range.
And there in lies the only good news that can be found in the short-lived experiment by Vacation Express at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
A market exists
There is an obvious market for selected flights originating from the Mahoning Valley. The right airline, offering the right flights from Youngstown-Warren should be able to make money.
This should not come as a surprise. Other regional airports have been able to maintain, or even expand, schedules. The Akron-Canton Airport is served by five airlines and its passenger load is growing dramatically. In June, nearly 133,000 travelers used the Akron-Canton Airport, an increase of more than 25 percent over just a year earlier.
Regional airports that provide needed service to residents of the area can prosper. That the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport is not living up to its potential is no reason to despair.
The loss of Vacation Express, while regrettable, has provided the port authority with insight into what might work and what does not at the airport. The board's job is to build on that knowledge.