Monday, December 25, 2017

Allegiant commercial service coming to an end at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (KYNG)

Editor’s note: This is No. 7 of the top 10 stories of 2017 voted on by employees of the Tribune Chronicle.

VIENNA — As 2017 closes, so too does commercial airline service at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

Allegiant Air, which has provided discount leisure flights on a regular basis at the airport in Vienna more than a decade, is the only carrier that offers commercial service here.

Dan Dickten, Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport Director of Aviation, said the last flight out of the airport is Jan. 4.

In August, the company, citing low demand, announced its local service would end.

That word came a year to the day after Aerodynamics Inc., referred to as ADI, stopped it's Great Lakes JetExpress flights from Youngstown to Chicago — a matter that is playing out in federal court as the Western Reserve Port Authority, which runs the local airport, sued the airline, which then countersued.

A final pretrial conference in the case has been set for 1:30 p.m. July 16, with the trial scheduled to start Aug. 6, at the U.S. Courthouse in Youngstown.

For the past several months, local airport officials have been in discussions with other carriers in an effort to provide alternative service and replace Allegiant Air and ADI. One of those airlines officials have been meeting with is Memphis, Tenn.-based Southern Airways Express,

A public forum was held earlier this month where Mark Cestari of Southern Airways Express who talked about the company, founded in 2013, which has 22 nine-seat planes and a business strategy geared toward regional business travelers who fly out of smaller airports.

Officials are exploring the idea of flights from the airport to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Baltimore and Detroit’s Coleman A. Young International Airport. The proximity of the airport in Baltimore to Washington, D.C., also creates the possibility for passengers to catch larger commercial airlines to other national and international destinations for leisure.

Dickten said the airport is having active conversations with several network carriers and other smaller airlines outside of Southern Airways Express, and although airport officials fully expect to bring commercial service back, there is not a solid time frame of when that might occur.

Dickten said the area is being affected by “fare wars” but he’s hoping conversations with airlines like SkyWest and Sun Country Airlines might prove fruitful.

Sun Country Airlines already provides charter flights out of the airport, Dickten said, but there’s a possibility the company may begin to offer low-cost commercial flights similar to Allegiant Air or Spirit Airlines.

“Things like this just don’t happen overnight,” Dickten said. “There will be a break in service before we are able to get a new service in here.”

A long line of travelers headed to Florida checked bags and headed through security at the airport Thursday. Many said they have flown Allegiant in the past and are saddened the airport is losing commercial service, and others had not yet heard Allegiant is leaving.

Rhonda Spieth, of Chagrin Falls, said she is disappointed to hear Allegiant is leaving, because flying out of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport is quicker and more convenient than flying from Cleveland or Pittsburgh.

“It’s nice to fly out of here because it’s small and better than Cleveland where it’s big and you can lose your luggage,” Spieth said.

Lanny Bucci, of Warren, said he uses Allegiant every other year to travel to Florida and visit his parents. Like Spieth, Bucci has enjoyed the convenience of a flight out of Vienna.

“I’ll probably have to go to (Akron-Canton) airport in the future, but hopefully not,” Bucci said. “I’d like to keep coming here. It’s quick, I can get here in seven minutes, and the flights are nice. It’s very convenient.”

Steve and Lynn Horvat, of Canfield, fly four or five times per year out of the airport on Allegiant and as regular travelers they said they feel like no one was ever given a solid answer as to why Allegiant is pulling out. They travel with their daughter, Allison, and having an airport with cheap flights close to home has been a blessing.

“My daughter has special needs, and it’s hard for her to go to Pittsburgh or Cleveland,” Lynn Horvat said. “This is not a good thing and we hate to see them go. They’ve been good for the economy and community.”

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.tribtoday.com

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