From 2009 until June of last year, AirTran Airways provided nonstop air service linking Charleston to Orlando. According to Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson, the route was popular with passengers and profitable for AirTran. But after Southwest Airlines purchased AirTran in 2012, the new carrier opted to drop Yeager and several other smaller airports from its route system.
About half the grant money would be used to provide a minimum revenue guarantee for a new Florida carrier during the route's first year of operation, with the rest of the funding to be spent on marketing the route.
After AirTran, a low-cost carrier, suspended service here, "fares went up to travelers going to Florida, and our Florida passenger numbers plummeted," Atkinson said.
"If we can get a nonstop route to one Florida city, I think our passenger numbers will increase by at least 30,000 a year," Atkinson said. "If we get service to two or more cities, it could be a gain of 75,000 or 80,000."
Yeager's July passenger numbers got a boost from more than 1,000 Boy Scouts and scout leaders who landed at the Charleston Airport to take part in the National Scout Jamboree in Fayette County. On Wednesday, hundreds of scouts passed through Yeager's passenger terminal to catch commercial flights home, while hundreds more boarded a pair of Boeing 737 charter jets at Executive Air, Yeager's general aviation terminal.
Also on Wednesday, Yeager's governing board accepted, pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, a low bid of $13.2 million from Central Contracting of St. Albans to perform the earth moving and erosion control work needed to remove a knoll in the NorthGate office park complex. The knoll obstructs the climb-out and landing approach to the downtown Charleston end of Yeager's main runway.
To shear off the knoll and create sediment control ponds, about 1.3 million cubic yards of earth will be moved to complete the project. Funds to pay for the project come from the FAA's Airport Improvement Program.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.