Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Airline and Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport (KYNG) explore options

Mark Cestari, chief commercial officer of Southern Airways Express, left, talks with John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, Tuesday during a public meeting held at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

VIENNA — The chief commercial officer of a Memphis, Tenn.-based airline considering expanding its service to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport discussed Monday with local officials whether there is a market locally for it to provide flights.

The public forum at the airport in Vienna attended by Mark Cestari of Southern Airways Express was held to gauge the public’s interest in having new commercial service now that Allegiant Air is ending its flights in January.

The company, founded in 2013, is geared toward regional business travelers who fly out of smaller airports. It has 22 nine-seat planes.

It is 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, Cestari said.

“After many conversations with (the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport) we focused our initial thinking to Detroit, where there are connections with the automobile industry and to the Washington market via our hub in Baltimore,” Cestari said.

John Moliterno, executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority, which oversees the airport, said Southern Airways is one option the airport is exploring. Although Allegiant Air is leaving, the airport intends to continue commercial service.

“We want connectivity and we are continually trying to generate new flight service and activity at this airport,” Moliterno said. “Southern Airways is viable, and it can work here, but we are still working out the details.”

James Kinnick, executive director of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, asked if Southern Airways would consider flights to Columbus, a city business and government officials in the Mahoning Valley travel to hundreds of times per year. Cestari said Columbus hadn’t been considered, although it is a city to look into moving forward.

“I know many people that go to Columbus once or twice a week and it turns into a three-hour drive each way,” Kinnick said. “A flight to Columbus would appeal to me as would a flight to Baltimore when we conduct business in Washington a couple times a year. I don’t think people realize how convenient it is to catch a train from Baltimore to D.C.”

Southern Airways isn’t capable of offering flights to destinations west or south to states like Florida, a destination many have used Allegiant Air to travel to. It remains to be seen if people are interested in flying to Baltimore to catch a connector flight, or whether they will instead drive to Cleveland or Pittsburgh when Allegiant is gone, Cestari said.

“I think the community is anxious to continue air service at the Youngstown Airport and the airport folks are working hard to do that,” Cestari said. “We just have to figure out if our model and our price point works for Youngstown.”

Original article can be found here ➤

Southern Airways Express wasn’t in town to announce a new service starting at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, but rather to discuss the possibility.

“We will continue conversations,” said Mark Cestari, Southern Airways chief commercial officer. “This is a good step today to keep the process going.”

Cestari came to the airport Tuesday for a public forum about bringing air service here. Given the coming end of Allegiant Air flights in January, airport officials are in talks with Southern Airways and other airlines to bring new commercial service to the airport in Vienna Township.

The Mississippi-based airline founded in 2013 offers regional air service to more than 20 cities in the Gulf and Mid-Atlantic regions, according to the airline’s website. The company uses 22 nine-passenger Cessna Caravans.

“It’s really one of the fastest-growing small regional airlines in the country,” Cestari said.

The airline discussed the possibility of service between Youngstown and Coleman Young Airport in Detroit and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“Ideally, you want service with a network carrier, but that’s hard to get,” said Bob Mann, industry analyst.

The airport sent out a survey about the suggested routes and found the Washington, D.C., service wasn’t that popular of an option.

“The demand was a little bit low,” Cestari said.

The airline wants to gauge who would use the airline, how often and how much people are willing to pay for it.

“Our model with a nine-seat aircraft is different,” Cestari said. “It’s going to be more expensive.”

A one-way ticket to Detroit could cost $100 to $200, and the cost of a ticket to D.C. could be $120 to $220, Cestari said.

“These are business commuter type fares,” Cestari said. “Our economics are very different.”

Twelve of the 21 routes Southern Airways flies are under the Essential Air Service program, which provides a subsidy to the airline to fly from smaller airports to hub airports where travelers connect to a national network. Tickets are cheaper on EAS routes. Airports closer than 70 miles to a commercial service hub – such as Youngstown-Warren with proximity to Pittsburgh – do not qualify for the EAS program.

Mann said the program has been going out of business for 40 years.

“It’s hideously expensive to the taxpayer,” Mann said. “Anybody in Congress who doesn’t have it doesn’t want it, and the people who do have it love it.”

Altoona-Blair County Airport in Martinsburg, Pa., is one of the airports where Southern has two EAS routes to Baltimore/Washington and Pittsburgh.

“Service has been well-received,” said Tracy Plessinger, manager of the Altoona airport.

The airport previously had service from Sun Air Express, which Southern purchased in February 2016. The airport recommended the airline to receive the EAS contract from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“It’s a much more interactive experience,” Plessinger said of the smaller aircraft. “It’s a more personal experience than flying on a bigger jet.”

The routes suggested for Youngstown-Warren are more for the business traveler, but the airline would hope to tap into the customer base Allegiant formed here with its leisure destinations.

“Any additional activity here at the airport would be great,” said Dan Dickten, director of aviation at Youngstown-Warren.

The possibility of offering a Columbus destination was brought up at the forum, and Cestari said it was great suggestion.

“It’s definitely something we are going to look at,” he said.

As far as connectivity with other airlines, Southern Airways Express is working on getting interline agreements with legacy carriers. Interlining is a commercial agreement between airlines to offer one fare for the traveler and divide the revenue of that fare. The agreement also covers baggage transfers.

“Thirty to 40 percent of our customers connect with low-cost carriers and they don’t have interline agreements,” Cestari said.

Last year, the airport had daily service back at the airport after 14 years without it – only to see it end after a month since the airline did not have a working interline agreement with major airlines. Great Lakes Jet Express, operated by Aerodynamics Inc., offered daily flights to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The Western Reserve Port Authority sued ADI for breach of contract. The authority seeks to have its $361,714 revenue guarantee returned.

ADI filed a countersuit denying it misled the airport and demanding $294,221, the amount ADI billed the port authority Aug. 30 for the revenue guarantee but never received. Both parties are working on a settlement.

Original article can be found here ➤

VIENNA TWP., Ohio - Youngstown - Warren Regional airport hosted a forum this morning, inviting the public to engage in a conversation with one of the airlines their considering taking the place of Allegiant Airlines.

Southern Airways Expresses goal today was to see if they could meet the needs of the business travelers and locals in the Valley. The airline is considering offering flights between Youngstown to Detroit and Youngstown to the Baltimore/Washington D.C. airport. After feedback from attendees they are now considering flights to Columbus. 

Mark Cestari, Southern Airway Express CCO says, "The one thing that makes our company unique is that every pilot we hire will live and work in their hometown." this will provide reliable service for the customer and company also bringing additional jobs to the area. After today's forum Cestari is now looking into whether there is a demand here for the locations his nine passenger planes can fly and if the price point is feasible for this area as there will be a slight increase in flight pricing due to Southern Airways being a smaller company than Allegiant Airlines.

January 4th will be Allegiant's last day with the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. Aviation Director, Dan Dickten says they are working very hard to fill this vacancy as soon as possible.

Original article can be found here ➤

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