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What will it take for the Valley to secure daily airline service?



Published: Sat, May 17, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

There was an entry in the May 7 “Years Ago” column in The Vindicator that serves as a backdrop to what’s going on today in the Mahoning Valley:

“1939: W.A. Patterson, president of United Airlines, says his company will inaugurate service at Youngstown Municipal Airport as soon as the facility is ready to accommodate the line’s huge 24-passenger planes.”

The announcement and subsequent regular service over the next six decades were reflections of the region’s economic vitality tied to the expansive steel industry.

There was demand for business and leisure travel that United was all too happy to meet.

Fast-forward 75 years and the revelation last week that all the excitement in this area about the possibility of United re-starting regular service here was premature, at best.

Indeed, a spokeswoman for the airline made it clear to The Vindicator that United had not “changed its mind” about coming to the Valley, meaning that Dan Dickten, director of operations at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, had read too much into whatever conversations he had with airline officials.

Dickten has been unwavering in his contention that if the Mahoning Valley came up with a $1.65 million revenue guarantee, United would agree to fly in and out of the Valley airport.

The Western Reserve Port Authority, which governs the airport, has $1.2 million available, and a fundraising drive was launched for the rest. Dickten and other officials asked local governments for commitments and received several pledges, including one for $30,000 from the city of Warren.

Youngstown City Council was preparing to pledge about $40,000, but news of United’s decision not to fly here will delay that vote until another viable suitor emerges, according to Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally.

The fundraising received a major boost when the Cafaro Foundation committed $100,000, leaving a balance of $350,000.

NO SOLID BUSINESS CASE

But then came an email letter from Martin Kammerman, a representative of the airline, to airport officials, saying “there is not a solid business case for establishing service.”

But the nail in the coffin was Kammerman’s contention that United would need a revenue guarantee of $14 million over a two-year period — not the $1.65 to $1.7 million Dickten had established as the goal.

“The discrepancy between your revenue guarantee goals and our business requirements provide further pause for establishing service,” the airline rep wrote.

It should be pointed out that the figure cited by Dickten was in line with what other regions with airports similar in size to Youngstown-Warren are paying in revenue guarantees for regular airline service.

It is also noteworthy that United Airlines has been hit by economic turbulence recently — it lost $489 million in the first quarter of 2014 — has experienced poor results from startups and is experiencing a pilot shortage.

Such extenuating circumstances had to have influenced United’s decision, which leads us to conclude that Dickten and the Western Reserve Port Authority should continue their search for a commercial carrier.

We’ve consistently argued that a vibrant airport served by a major carrier or its subsidiary is essential for the economic revival of the Mahoning Valley.

Thus, the question: What will it take to persuade a major airline to provide regular service at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport?

The obvious answer is a show of support from the public and private sectors in the Valley. Financial support is essential, but so is the commitment from businesses and individuals to use the airline for their travel needs.

The decision by United should not dissuade area leaders from continuing their search for airline service.


Comments

1Miki(95 comments)posted 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Everyone should have a dream. I dream of jobs for the valley with a wage that people could live on. The WRPA has failed us with false promises of help for our valley. The Commissioners have failed us by appointing mostly incompetents to this board.

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2Erplane(482 comments)posted 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Well, we have to take a huge grain of salt when United states it doesnt see the business case. Over 700 taking the survey is substantially higher than other airports and their responses, according to some air consultants. The communities were pledging moneys. It was all coming together.

When United says it doesn't see the business case, it may be trying to poison the well for its competition. The business case is overwhemingly there, and a profitable Delta or emerging American may see that.

Dan Dickten has been doing an admirable job, and with the support of business and community leaders like Sen. Portman, Mayor Franklin, Cafaro Foundation, Ron Klingle, Rep Johnson, and the Chamber, I think service will return soon.

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3listener(108 comments)posted 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Anyone who has dealt with Dan Dickten knows why United pulled out. If Dan and the WRPA board believed they were going to receive funds from all of the local communities he tried to scam funds out of, you were all very mistaken and it was not going to happen.

As usual the cart is being put before the horse. There needs to be a business reason for service to and from Youngstown. If we weren't so worried about indicting people and if those same people were actually doing their jobs, maybe they would work on lowering the highest income tax in the state of Ohio and doing other things to bring jobs back here which in turn would signal a need for air service.

Dan, Sarah and this lame board needs to resign so we can start this port authority up again with a clean sheet of paper and new people.

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4kurtw(846 comments)posted 3 months, 2 weeks ago

To Vindy: "We’ve consistently argued that a vibrant airport served by a major carrier or its subsidiary is essential for the economic revival of the Mahoning Valley."

"Thus, the question: What will it take to persuade a major airline to provide regular service at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport?"

"The obvious answer is a show of support from the public and private sectors in the Valley. Financial support is essential, but so is the commitment from businesses and individuals to use the airline for their travel needs."

So, why doesn't the Vindy put it's money where it's black ink is and pony up some cash? "A show of support from the the public and PRIVATE sectors in the Valley". The owners of the Vindicator over the years have profited mightily from the residents of the Mahoning Valley (myself included- a 40 plus year subscriber)- so why not plow some of it back with a substantial contribution to support regular air service for the Mahoning Valley. "Financial Support is Essential..." Right, you said it...

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