Evansville Regional Airport seeking federal grant
Money would subsidize airline
By Susan Orr
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The Evansville Regional Airport is competing for a $500,000 federal grant that could help it land a new airline.
This week the airport will submit its application for a Small Community Air Service Development Grant. The grant, from the U.S. Department of Transportation, would require a community match of 10 percent, or $50,000.
The grant program, established in 2000, is designed to help smaller airports that have either insufficient air carrier service or unreasonably high air fares.
If Evansville Regional Airport received the grant, it would use the money to help it attract a new airline, increasing competition and lowering customer fares, said the airport’s marketing manager, Dianna Kissel.
Currently only two commercial airlines operate out of Evansville — Delta and American.
Most of the grant money would be used for revenue guarantees, Kissel said. In other words, the grant money would help subsidize an airline’s operations at Evansville Regional Airport while the airline built its local customer base.
Evansville Regional Airport last received a Small Community Air Service Development Grant in 2004. That money, $500,000, helped subsidize Cape Air, a regional carrier that offered flights between Evansville, Indianapolis and South Bend, Ind. Those flights ended in 2008.
There is no guarantee Evansville will receive the grant this time around. Kissel said the airport applied last year but its request was not funded.
But the airport thinks it has a good chance this year because its application includes data from a recently-completed study of passenger traffic patterns.
That report showed that only 55 percent of the area’s air travelers used Evansville Regional Airport last year. The other 45 percent used another airport.
In many cases, Kissel said, the passengers were traveling out of town to use airlines that also operate out of Evansville, which suggests price was the only reason those travelers chose another airport.
“We’re proving there’s a huge market here,” said Doug Joest, the airport’s interim director.
Kissel said the airport has been in talks with several airlines, but it’s premature to say when — or if — a new airline will come to town.
“Getting the grant doesn’t guarantee service. It’s certainly a huge bargaining chip when we sit down and talk with the airlines, but it doesn’t guarantee service by any means.”
Kissel shared information on the grant application at Monday’s monthly meeting of the airport’s board of directors.
Also at that meeting, board members learned that a search committee has been formed to find a new director for the airport. The airport is searching for a replacement for Bob Working, who retired last month.
The search committee includes airport board members Pete Paradossi (search committee chairman) and David Gunn; at-large member Neil Ellerbrook; Lloyd Winecke representing Vanderburgh County Commissioners; and Rose Young from the office of Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel.
The committee has not yet had its first meeting.
© 2010 Scripps Newspaper Group
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