Pitt-Greenville Airport wants federal grant for second airline - WNCT

UPDATE: Pitt-Greenville Airport wants federal grant for second airline

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A second airline could soon be coming to the Pitt-Greenville Airport.

Currently, the regional airport only provides USAirways connector flights between Greenville and Charlotte, which it considers a "hub" to bigger destinations.

Airport Manager Jerry Vickers tells 9 On Your Side he hopes to change that.

"Recruiting a new airline is at the top of the Airport Authority's priorities and has been for a number of years," he says.

He and other members of the Pitt-Greenville Airport Authority applied for a $500,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation last week.

Vickers says the airport would also contribute $450,000 that has been tucked away in a "rainy day" fund since 2006.

In addition, he says seven community partners made up of city and county leaders, as well as representatives from ECU and Vidant Medical Center, have agreed to contribute $150,000 for a second airline bid.

"Combined with our local matching funds, it will allow us to package a very attractive incentive package to help the airline reduce their risk of starting a new service in a small community," he says. 

If the airport gets the grant, Vickers says over the next year he would negotiate a contract with a new airline to guarantee them the cost of their service, plus a small amount of profit. 

Vickers says he is "cautiously optimistic" his airport will win the grant and says he thinks they have a "50-50 chance." Vickers says the USDOT will announce winners next month.

When 9 On Your Side asked Vickers which specific airline he has his sights set on, Vickers replied, "We never comment on any specific airline we're targeting because clients do not want you to name them until they're ready to announce it to the community with a surprise ceremony."

However, he says since USAirways and American Airlines merged earlier this year, it's likely they want to attract one of the remaining "large airline carriers," which aviation experts list as Delta, United and Southwest.

9 On Your Side also did some digging and found that of the nine major airports in our state, Greenville's airport is the only one that doesn't offer fliers at least USAirways and Delta flights.

Each year, the USDOT gives out 40 of these grants as part of its Small Community Air Service Development Program.

Past recipients in our state include Kinston, Jacksonville and Asheville. The program actually awarded Greenville a $450,000 grant back in 2005, but Vickers says the airport lost the chance to use the money because of economic difficulties with an airline.

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