Saturday, January 7, 2012

Air Choice One coming to Northeast Arkansas

Officials of Air Choice One, the St. Louis-based air carrier that has been approved to provide essential air service for Jonesboro, told members of the Jonesboro Municipal Airport Commission and city officials Wednesday that it wants to be more than simply a provider of air service between Jonesboro and St. Louis International Airport.

“We want to be a part of your community,” said Air Choice One Chief Executive Officer Shane Storz.

Air Choice One (ACO) representatives, including Storz, Chief Pilot Murphy Ownbey and Katie West, sales and promotions representative, along with Brian Kinsey, assistant director of marketing and business development for St. Louis International, attended the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce “Power Breakfast” Wednesday morning and followed that up with a meeting with airport and city officials at the terminal building at the airport.

The airline will begin essential air service on Feb. 13 with a weekly 16-flight schedule it announced earlier, with multiple flights on Sundays and weekdays and a single flight into and out of Jonesboro on Saturdays.

Air Choice One is also offering $25 one-way rates on a temporary basis to introduce local residents and business officials to the air service, airline officials said. While the $25 flights are being offered on a temporary basis, officials said a termination date for the reduced rates has not been set.

A 10-day flight schedule is available at the airline’s Web site, www.airchoiceone.com, and bookings can be made now, the officials said Wednesday.

Storz said the airline currently has three Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft, with 8- or 9-passenger capability and one Piper Navajo.

“We hope to add a fourth Caravan soon,” the CEO said.

He said ACO has been talking with officials at Branson, Mo., about future service there which could provide air connection to the resort and entertainment community from Jonesboro and other areas served by the airline.

He also said ACO is considering the purchase of a larger aircraft in order to be able to offer special events packages, such as Red Wolves sporting events.

Kinsey said the St. Louis airport is happy to be able to work with ACO and others to provide additional travel services.

“It’s important for us to be able to tie in with communities such as Jonesboro,” Kinsey said. He noted that the airport can provide grants and other funding as well as promotions for additional travel opportunities.

One member of the Airport Commission noted that there has never before been an offer of that or any other kind of support from under previous essential air service arrangements.

Kinsey said the St. Louis airport wants to partner with the community, and one of the ways is through the grants that can help promote the air travel services that are available.

He said the airport also provides grants to the air carriers to be able to do some things that it may not have a budget for.

The airport also has special travel promotions, including free trips, that can help to remind people of the services and travel opportunities available through the St. Louis airport.

Currently, SeaPort Airlines is providing EAS service between Jonesboro and Memphis. While the meeting was going on Wednesday, a SeaPort airplane landed and a passenger disembarked.

Officials said they are not sure when SeaPort would discontinue flights to and from Memphis International but added that there may be a gap in air service as one service ends and Air Choice One begins.

Source:   http://www.paragoulddailypress.com

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