Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tuscaloosa Regional Airport seeks passenger air service



City officials are making a concerted effort to return passenger air service to the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport.

The City Council has approved a contract with Sixel Consultants Group to help lure a passenger airline while advising on upgrades to the airport’s existing facilities in order to accommodate the service. A commercial airline has not operated at the airport in nearly 20 years.

“We’re trying to take it on a step-by-step basis,” said Selvin Greene, director of the city’s new Department of Infrastructure and Public Services, which now oversees the airport. “This is a way for us to put a little bit of money in, see where we are, see what progress we’re making and then decide what steps to take beyond that point.”

The city is paying Sixel Consultants $5,500 to meet with various airlines in an effort to entice one to operate in Tuscaloosa and another $7,500 to consult on what upgrades the airport will need.

“Sixel provides air service development consulting services and provides a variety of studies and services that support a relationship between airports and airlines,” said Jeff Powell, manager of the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport. “We have asked them to partner with us for an upcoming conference that provides an environment to sit down with multiple airlines and discuss our community.

“It is not an all-or-nothing effort, but rather for building relationships with airlines so that we can be on the table when our market supports their business growth model.”

Greene said the meetings with the airlines, set to take place Sunday through Tuesday in Lexington, Ky., will help determine what enhancements, if any the airport will need to accommodate the commercial service.

The consultants are set to meet with representatives from American Airlines; SkyWest Airlines out of St. George, Utah; ViaAir, which flies out of West Virginia and North Carolina; and Southern Airways Express, a commuter airline based in Memphis, Tenn.

Greene said representatives from other airlines also are expected to be part of the discussions with Sixel Consultants.

“There will be multiple airline services there,” he said.

It’s unclear when, or if, passenger air service will return to Tuscaloosa, but it has been a topic of discussion among the City Council members off-and-on for years.

American Eagle, a regional subsidiary of American Airlines, was the last commercial airline to operate in Tuscaloosa, but it stopped serving the airport in 1997.

“For a smaller service, we may already have everything in place,” Greene said. “For somebody like American Airlines, we may need to extend primary runway to a certain length.

“Those are the kind of things that we would be developing to look at what we could realistically bite off to handle in order to provide some of these services.”

Source:   http://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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