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Second airline to serve Hagerstown

January 02, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A new commercial carrier will fly between Hagerstown Regional Airport and Baltimore and receive a federal subsidy.

Hyannis Air Service of Hyannis, Mass., which is known as Cape Air, has proposed four daily round-trip flights between Hagerstown and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Cape Air will join Allegiant Air, which has flown between Hagerstown and Orlando since November without a subsidy.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) picked Cape Air's bid on Wednesday over three others.

Cape Air spokeswoman Michelle Haynes said local flights are expected to start in mid-March.

Cape Air's bid also includes five daily round-trip flights between Lancaster, Pa., and BWI.

The carrier will use nine-seat Cessna 402 planes.

A one-way trip between Hagerstown and BWI is expected to be about $50, not including taxes and fees, according to Cape Air's bid.

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Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said a connection to BWI was appealing.

"We keep having folks ask for Baltimore," she said.

Greg Larsen, the airport's business development manager, said reasonable ticket prices, the frequency of flights and Cape Air's flexibility were attractive, too.

Just before Air Midwest stopped serving Hagerstown, its only morning departure was at 10:30 a.m., which excluded part of the market, Larsen said.

With Cape Air, Hagerstown would like an early-morning flight, possibly around 6 a.m., he said.

Haynes said Cape Air has ticket- and baggage-sharing agreements with all major airlines except Southwest and AirTran, so customers won't need separate arrangements for separate legs of a trip.

Under the federal Essential Air Service (EAS) program, the DOT will pay Cape Air $1.20 million per year to serve Hagerstown and $1.37 million per year to serve Lancaster. The subsidy expires Sept. 30, but it can be reauthorized.

EAS funding is designed to help places far from large hub airports.

Waivers allow Hagerstown, Lancaster and Brookings, S.D., to be considered far enough from larger airports to qualify for EAS money.

Hagerstown and Lancaster both lost commercial air service in September 2007, when a previous EAS subsidy expired.

Through a US Airways contract, Air Midwest connected Hagerstown and Lancaster to Pittsburgh using 19-seat Beech 1900 turboprop planes.

Joyce Opp, the Lancaster Airport Authority's finance and marketing director, said Cape Air's ticket and baggage agreements with other airlines are a benefit that Air Midwest didn't have.

Also, only Cape Air among the four EAS bidders is listed in major air travel booking sites, Opp said.

The other bidders were:

o Aviation Technologies, offering one daily round-trip to Pittsburgh.

o Tradewind Aviation, offering three or six daily round-trip flights to Philadelphia.

o TransportAzumah Air Services, offering two daily round-trip flights to New York City. A second option added service to Chicago.

The DOT's written order says Aviation Technologies and TransportAzumah currently don't have authority to operate.

Of the other two carriers, Cape Air had the support of both communities and asked for less of a subsidy, the DOT wrote.

Tradewind Aviation asked for $2.47 million over two years for three daily round-trip flights or $4.28 million over two years for six daily round-trip flights.

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