CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Yeager Airport officials have contacted three airlines about the potential of new service to Orlando, Fla., in light of a federal grant the airport received in late September.
The airport received $700,000 through the Small Community Air Service Development grant program, which will help pay for marketing and startup expenses for a new Florida flight. Only 25 airports in the country were awarded grant money through the program.
The developments were discussed at the airport's board meeting Wednesday afternoon.
But although the airport now has funding available for an airline to use, it's up to the airline to decide to take the money to begin new flights, Airport Director Rick Atkinson said.
Until the summer of 2012, AirTran Airways provided direct air service to Florida from Yeager. However, when Southwest Airlines bought AirTran, the service was dropped, despite performing very well.
The result of the loss of AirTran caused passenger traffic from Charleston to Florida to plummet and fares on the route jumped significantly.
Airport board member Priscilla Haden pointed out that the loss of AirTran service was negative for the airport's bottom line.
"Our budget was significantly impacted by the loss of the Florida flight," she said.
Atkinson said half of the grant award will help pay for startup expenses for the airline. The other half will go to marketing for a 15 month period -- three months before and 12 months after service arrives.
"In West Virginia, $350,000 is a lot of marketing money," he said.
Atkinson said the airport contacted airlines that they thought were likely to take advantage of the grant, but couldn't give more details other than they were not legacy carriers. He said each of the airlines "responded favorably."
"Each of these airlines... are in a growth pattern," he said.
The grant program through which the airport applied is the same program that made the airport's Houston flight possible in 2002. At the time, Continental operated the flight, but that airline has now merged with United, which still provides the service.
In other business, the board:
* Learned the airport received a $200,000 grant to conduct a sustainability planning grant that the airport will use to conduct an energy efficiency study.