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Funds would be used as part of $1.2 million effort to add flights, market airlines

Last updated: August 31. 2013 12:20AM - 2406 Views
ANDREW M. SEDER aseder@timesleader.com



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AVOCA — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport has applied for a $575,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to help expand service and market the airport.


The application was filed this week with the FAA’s Small Community Air Service Development Grant program.


The grant would be used toward a nearly $1.2 million initiative that includes enticing airlines to add flights to leisure and business destinations not currently offered out of Northeastern Pennsylvania including Tampa, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington and Las Vegas, said Barry J. Centini, the airport’s director.


Money would be used to help subsidize the airlines, could go toward landing fees and other offers making flying in to and out of the area more attractive, Centini said. Additional money would be used to amplify marketing efforts for those airlines and existing airlines.


U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton quickly drafted a letter voicing his support.


“I understand that the airport’s three main program goals are to secure air service along leisure and vacation routes, restore service to business destinations on the eastern seaboard, and to expand a marketing campaign to attract new carriers to the airport,” Casey wrote to FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta.


“The estimated total project cost is just under $1.2 million, and when these goals are met the entire Northeastern Pennsylvania region will experience the economic benefits of lower air fares and expanded air service,” Casey said.


The grant program is competitive, with less than $15 million available nationwide on an annual basis.


In fiscal year 2012, 33 airports received grants from this program totalling $13,917,000. The only one located in Pennsylvania was Williamsport, which received $500,000. In recent years airports in State College, Harrisburg and Latrobe also have received funding ranging from $200,000 to $400,000. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport received funds in the past to help secure Northwest Airlines flights to Detroit.


Casey noted that “demand for air service to and from the region is expected to increase beyond current numbers because this airport is located in close proximity to significant deposits of natural gas located in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. Despite these factors, air travelers in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area pay fares higher than in most similarly-sized regions around the country. As it appears, this funding will help make Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International airport more attractive to businesses and recreational travelers alike.”


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