Though the Golden Triangle Regional Airport is losing its Memphis connection, a $1 million grant could help it secure a contract with another airline, to enhance its West-bound connections.
GTRA Executive Director Mike Hainsey announced Thursday the airport board has applied for a Small Community Air Service Development Grant to help attract West-bound service.
West-bound options include airlines in Texas — Dallas with American Airlines and Houston with Continental (United Airlines).
“It”s the same grant that we had that helped us get the Memphis service,” Hainsey explained. “It”s risk abatement for the airlines, and it makes us a lot more attractive for the airlines when they”re contracting with a small airport like ours. It makes us very attractive, but the bottom line is they”re not going to come here if they”re going to lose money.”
The grant can help supplement the airline”s profits for its first year, if the airline otherwise would have lost money with the contract.
Delta Airlines began service from GTRA to Memphis International Airport in May 2009 but announced it will end its Memphis service at GTRA, in September, as part of the airline”s plan to reduce its presence in Memphis by 25 percent.
Starting in September, GTRA will have three flights, all through Atlanta.
Hainsey also informed the board Atlantic Southwest will adopt a new name at the end of the year.
Thursday, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, announced that “SureJet” will be its company name once its merger with ExpressJet Airlines is complete. The airline since has removed the announcement from its website and may go in a different direction.
ASA acquired ExpressJet in November 2010 and is in the process of merging the two companies and operations, according to a press release from Southwest. The combined airline”s headquarters are in Atlanta.
GTRA passenger volume remains ahead of last year. June numbers were up slightly over June 2010.
Flights were at 76-percent capacity for June, about 10 percent ahead of last year.
“Our midday flight is running 96-percent full, so that”s obviously our most popular time,” Hainsey said.
Hainsey also offered the following updates:
- A runway expansion is nearly complete, other than some “clean-up items.” The runway expanded from 6,500 feet to 8,000 feet, part of an effort to market the surrounding industrial park as a regional global industrial park.
- GTRA has applied for a multi-modal grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, to create a facility to help support Columbus Air Force Base if they need to deploy aircraft to GTRA.
“It”s more like a classroom. It allows them a place to brief, debrief,” Hainsey explained.
The airport authority applied for a $350,000 grant and should find out if they will be awarded, at the end of August.
- This week, bids opened on a project to mill and pave the airport”s main terminal-access road.
“Part of that project is also to move the entrances to the parking lot and add additional parking to the lot,” Hainsey said.
It is a $806,000 project, $360,000 of which will be funded by a grant from MDOT; the remainder is funded through a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Hainsey and a contingent of representatives, including state and local economic development officials, went to the Paris Air Show last month, and met with several international companies, some currently located in the area and others prospective.
They also met with the Boyd Group, an international firm that advising on strategic and tactical planning for airlines, airports, suppliers, labor organizations and aircraft and power plant manufacturers.