CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Yeager Airport has received a $700,000 federal grant that the airport hopes will help restore flights between Charleston and Orlando.
The grant money will be used primarily as bait to attract a low-fare airline. If an airline agrees to provide the flights, the money would be used for a marketing campaign promoting the flight and also to ease the airline's startup costs, for things like computer terminals at Yeager, airport spokesman Brian Belcher said.
Charleston has not had a direct flight to Orlando since June 2012, when AirTran, a subsidiary of Southwest Airlines, discontinued its thrice-weekly service.
"Since they pulled that, it's cost us about 80,000 passengers," Belcher said. "So we made it a goal that we're going to try to attract someone to fly there."
Rick Atkinson, Yeager's director, said at the time that the Charleston-Orlando flights were very successful for AirTran. After it was acquired by Southwest, though, it had to discontinue service because of a Southwest labor agreement that does not allow the airline to outsource any work to contractors, such as ground crews.
The grant, announced Sunday by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., comes from a Department of Transportation program that helps small and medium-sized communities offer affordable air service.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to work with an airline to re-establish popular routes to Florida markets," Atkinson said in a statement. "We thank Senator Rockefeller for his efforts on our behalf."