Saturday, October 01, 2011

Austin Straubel International Airport (KGRB) to bring in new airline: Federal grant to help attract western destination

ASHWAUBENON - Austin Straubel International Airport is looking to expand flights in and out of Ashwaubenon next year. The airport is receiving a half million dollar federal grant to help make that happen.

Airlines at Austin Straubel make direct flights to Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. But airport officials would like to expand to a more western hub to increase traffic where service is deficient. And to help the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Austin Straubel a $500,000 grant to develop new air service.

"It is kind of like a carrot we can hang out in front of a couple of airlines that may be interested or we know are possibly looking at Green Bay," said Tom Miller, airport director.

The money can be used to help in subsidizing the start up costs of an airline.

"The money takes that risk away. That's what we're trying to do and the goal is of course is to get them to be fully functioning for the long-term," said Miller.

Frontier Airlines just recently ended seasonal service to Denver, but officials with the airline indicated the seasonal service would be back next summer. Airport officials though say their first choice would be to have that route take off year round.

If not Denver, then Dallas-Fort Worth through American Airlines. That route was offered in 2005 and 2006 that Miller says was very profitable.

Back up options would include non-stop service to Salt Lake City or Phoenix.

Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau president Brad Toll says either option would help bring in business.

"It helps us when we go out and sell our destination saying absolutely we have an airport that you can get into very easily," said Toll.

Travelers tell us options with fewer stops would keep them coming back.

"I go through O'Hare and I don't mind but people who don't travel a lot I think O'Hare is really difficult. if you could come directly here I think it would be wonderful," said Kay Crawford, who routinely travels to Green Bay to visit family.

The plan is to have the new service in place by May of next year. Although airport officials say they're shooting for a new destination to take flight closer to March.

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