Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lebanon Municipal (KLEB), New Hampshire: Airport slashes fares to land more money

WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

LEBANON, N.H. -  Passengers hit the tarmac in Lebanon, N.H., from various destinations across the country. Jim Norris is returning home to Lyndonville.

"Went to Homer, Alaska, for a wedding," Norris said. "It was a great trip."

Connie Roberts, who is attending a wedding in Vermont, is coming from Ohio.

"I was going to take the bus from Boston and my sister got online and was checking out things and decided that flying would be the best way to go," Roberts said.

That's because Cape Air, the sole carrier in Lebanon, has reduced rates as part of a special promotion-- $49 to Boston, $99 to New York. The deal is to help increase annual departures from Lebanon over the 10,000-passenger mark by the end of the year. It's a crucial number for small airports.

"If we get 10,000, then our entitlement money that we get from FAA for safety and improvement increases from $150,000 a year to about a million," explained Rick Dyment, the manager of Lebanon Municipal Airport.

This is the second year in a row that prices have been slashed to boost ridership. Not exactly ideal for the airport, but in the meantime, officials say it is the passengers who are benefiting.

"A lot better than driving to Boston or even Manchester," Norris said.

"We would have been on the bus for three hours versus an hour," Roberts said.

Less time on the road and less hassle at the gate.

"If you are standing in a security line, there is never more than eight people in front of you because it is a nine-passenger plane," Dyment said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the airport was 565 passengers away from that goal, but only three people boarded the early afternoon flight. Ten years ago, the airport was seeing three to four times as many travelers.

"Burlington and Manchester did significant airport improvements, added a lot more airlines, added a lot more destinations. So it is all competition," Dyment said.

Competition that's taken its toll. But officials say good rates are helping get the word out about the convenience Lebanon offers, so in the future, passenger numbers take off.

The money comes from the federal Airport Improvement Program which is paid for through fares and not tax dollars.

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