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Four airlines apply to serve Hagerstown

November 17, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Four companies have applied to provide commercial air service out of Hagerstown Regional Airport through a federal subsidy.

Depending on which, if any, of the four is chosen, Washington County travelers might get a new link to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City or Chicago.

All four companies also applied to serve the Lancaster, Pa., airport.

The Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy is available for carriers in Hagerstown, Lancaster and Brookings, S.D., because of their distance to larger airports. The subsidy expires on Sept. 30, 2009, but can be extended, as it has before.

Hagerstown Regional Airport was without commercial service for more than 13 months.

Air Midwest stopped its service between Hagerstown and Pittsburgh when its contract expired on Sept. 30, 2007. Air Midwest was the third straight carrier to halt its service in Hagerstown within a five-year period.

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On Friday, a new carrier, Allegiant Air, started flying between Hagerstown and Orlando, but without a subsidy.

Friday also was the deadline for companies to apply to fly through the EAS subsidy program.

The companies that proposed service at Hagerstown Regional Airport were:

n Hyannis Air Service of Hyannis, Mass., doing business as Cape Air, which would fly four times a day round-trip from Hagerstown to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

n Tradewind Aviation of Oxford, Conn., which proposed either three or six round-trip flights a day between Hagerstown and Philadelphia

n Aviation Technologies of Avoca, Pa., which proposed one round-trip flight a day between Hagerstown and Pittsburgh, possibly including Lancaster

n TransportAzumah Air Services of New York City, which proposed two options. The first was two round-trip flights a day between Hagerstown, Lancaster and New York City. The second option added service to Chicago.

Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said her staff will review the proposals once the U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversaw the application process, sends a summary.

"I'm very happy to see the interest in our market," Motz said. "That said, it has to be right. We want the community best served. We're going to be very, very careful."

The four companies' proposals for service at Lancaster's airport were similar, with a few changes. For example, Aviation Technologies proposed round-trip service between Lancaster and Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

Motz said Hagerstown won't automatically pick the same carrier Lancaster does.

But Joyce Opp, Lancaster Airport Authority's finance and marketing director, said she doesn't foresee a carrier agreeing to serve one airport and not the other.

Opp said the two airports likely will work together on a choice.

Cape Air spokeswoman Michelle Haynes agreed that it wouldn't fly out of just one of the two airports. "We can't economically," she said. "It can't make sense."

Haynes said the proposed routes were only for the EAS application. If Cape Air, which she described as the country's largest independent regional airline, is chosen, it will ask for community input in putting together a final schedule, she said.

The companies' proposals differ not just in destinations and frequency, but in the type of aircraft.

Aviation Technologies would use 30-seat turboprop planes, Chief Financial Officer Michael Gallagher said.

TransportAzumah Air Services, which would hire a regional airline, plans to have 50-seat jets, President Joel Azumah said.

Azumah said he currently has a ground transportation business and this would be his venture in air travel.

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