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Airline plans to continue flights

January 23, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Plans call for a year-old air service from the Cumberland, Md., and Hagerstown airports to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to continue past June even if the state subsidy is eliminated, an official with the airline said Wednesday.

Dan Fortnam, vice president of sales and marketing for Boston-Maine's Clipper Connection, and Carolyn Motz, Hagerstown Regional Airport manager, said Wednesday they are confident the airline will be financially self-sufficient by the time the current subsidy runs out June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The state subsidy was slashed from the budget released last Friday by Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

The Maryland Aviation Administration recommended against continuing the state subsidy for Boston-Maine Airways past June 30. The three times a day flights from Cumberland and Hagerstown to BWI and back have not drawn enough customers to be independently profitable, according to a report the agency sent to state legislative leaders and the governor.

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The state originally agreed to subsidize the service by $5 million over three years but instead is spending $4.25 million in about 11/2 years.

Motz has called on elected officials to help her get the airline a state subsidy of $750,000 for the next fiscal year.

She said she will continue to fight for that subsidy to be added to the budget.

The number of paying ticket-holders is expected to increase enough by July that the airline can operate even if the subsidy is eliminated, Motz said.

"We intend for it to survive - that is the goal," Motz said.

An average of 2.4 people per flight flew on the airline to or from Hagerstown to BWI through the end of December, according to information released by Motz.

The amount of interest and the number of paid ticket-holders has increased in recent weeks, Motz and Fortnam said, but they would not provide specifics.

The airport delayed a marketing campaign for the airline while the company worked out some snags. The campaign began in November and is continuing.

Local residents wanted the airport to find an airline to provide air transportation from Hagerstown to BWI and that has been provided, Motz said.

If residents want to make sure the program succeeds they need to pay to use the service, Motz said.

"The subsidy was the jump start. The key now is getting people," she said.

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