Thursday, October 30, 2014

ViaAir offers daily flights to Charlotte and back: Raleigh County Memorial Airport (KBKW), Beckley, West Virginia

Congressman Nick Rahall, left, gives the thumbs up to Ami Viser, chairmen ViaAir aftert the announcement of Raleigh County Memorial  Airport new airline ViaAir. The new airline will be bringing its 30-passenger Embraer 120 jets into Raleigh County beginning in early December.

While the new carrier for the Raleigh County Memorial Airport was up in the air, manager Tom Cochran searched for the company he believed would be the perfect fit.

Cochran thinks he found it with the Orlando, Fla.-based ViaAir, which will begin passenger service to Charlotte, N.C., in December.

"Their interest, their passion for service and the first-class equipment they have, not just to fly people out of Beckley, but to bring the world to us" made ViaAir the right choice, Cochran said. "They are totally committed to give us service not only to Charlotte, but also chartering opportunities (in the future.)"

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., made the announcement Thursday at the airport.

"Enhancing our connections to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport with regular flights keeps our region connected in very short order to the world," Rahall said.

The congressman said the Essential Air Program, which helps fund airports for small- and mid-sized communities, is necessary for those airports to survive.

Rahall noted that large airports depend on smaller facilities to deliver passengers "to and from the first and last miles."

ViaAir chairman Ami Vizer said he and his wife, Irit, the company's president and CEO, don't just like but "love" the Beckley area.

Vizer said he believes once the outside world sees the region and sees what he sees here, the New River Gorge area will "be the center of adventure and many other attractions."

"I see nature," he said. "A lot of what you might see as undeveloped land, I see as open horizons."

Vizer wants to expand the tourism industry's horizons by offering an Adventure Package in conjunction with both the whitewater rafting companies in the New River and with Winterplace Ski Resort.

"Beckley is the closest ski resort (to Charlotte), only 45 minutes away using ViaAir," he said.

One thing Vizer didn't look at when he chose Beckley  — not only for ViaAir's aviation business, but a 44,000-square-foot maintenance facility — was the state's perpetual 50th ranking in many areas.

"By referring to yourself as No. 50, you (have to) look up instead of looking at the true value of your community and say 'this is what we have to offer,'" Vizer said. "The advantage we bring to the table is we see it through very fresh eyes with no pre-conceptions."

According to a media release, ViaAir expects to increase travelers to Beckley from 14,000 to 15,000 next year as part of the Adventure Package program.

New River Gorge Regional Development Authority executive director Chad Wykle said there's reason to be excited about air service to Charlotte since so many West Virginia natives now live and work in North Carolina.

"It's a business city, it's a business airport; you can connect globally to anywhere," Wykle said. "It's another way we can bring (West Virginia natives) home more often, and then permanently."

Cochran said air service with ViaAir will begin Dec. 1, and the online reservation center will be available Monday.

"People can make bookings for future flights," Cochran said. "The more people we can put on the airplane, the more we can work with the fares to make them attractive."

Cochran said he is equally excited about the tourism enhancement ViaAir brings to Raleigh County. ViaAir customers in Charlotte will be able to buy lift tickets for Winterplace.

"They're already marketing ideas with people in Charlotte," he said. "They're working to bring people here."

Cochran said having reliable service is important to the airport's future. The Federal Aviation Administration rewards airports with more than 10,000 boardings a year, he said. That number of enplanements would bring Raleigh Memorial $1 million from the FAA, Cochran said.

The money would be used for future projects at the airport and to keep the facility updated, Cochran said.

"We want to be what we've said that we were, a servant to the community," Cochran said. "We feel like now we have something to serve it with."

Municipal airports are increasingly seen as key components of economic development for communities since they are an attractive selling point in recruiting new business to a region.

The presence of a local airport is regarded by many businesses — particularly those in the high-tech sector — as crucial to servicing clients around the world. And many of these firms are looking for smaller airports over international airports, due to ease of access and quick departures that aren't possible at large airports.

ViaAir is based on Orlando, Fla., with maintenance and operations bases all over the United States, including Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles and Charlotte.

The company will fly four Embraer EMB-120 aircraft, billed as the "fastest, lightest and most economical in its class," for up to 30 passengers. ViaAir will have a total of four flights a day, leaving Beckley at 6:55 a.m. and 10:20 a.m., and leaving Charlotte at 8:40 a.m. 4:29 p.m.

During its first three weeks of service, the cost of a ticket each way will be $59, plus taxes and fees.

Story and Photo Gallery:

No comments:

Post a Comment