Airport considers oil country charter flights

VIENNA – Airport officials are working to start offering regular charter flights to Houston to service the oil and gas industry.

“There are several companies that are based in Houston who have expressed interest in that, and we hopefully can secure that shuttle service,” Youngstown Warren Regional Airport director of aviation Dan Dickten said Wednesday.

Dickten said he is working to facilitate the shuttles possibly with Republic Airlines, doing business as Frontier, which began serving the local airport in January with casino junket flights. Dickten said a conference call was held on the topic just this week.

Dickten said charter service is the most likely way to start such a program and noted similar methods were used at Wil-liamsport and Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, Pa., airports, the heart of the Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling industry, before the airlines decided to add permanent flights there.

“We will try to work with the airlines for some kind of scheduled charter service, low frequency,” Dickten said. “Realistically, that is how that works.”

Dickten’s announcement to the Port Authority board was accompanied by another announcement that after courting United Airlines for more than two years in the hopes of bringing daily passenger service to the local airport, the carrier said it has decided against providing regular flights here.

“We thought we had made a very good case with United,” Dickten said. Still, he said he feels strongly about other continuing talks with American Airlines about potential daily service between the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and Chicago O’Hare.

On the topic of cargo transportation, Dickten reported that the local airport has been having “meaningful on-going discussions” with UPS about a possible air freight feeder operation at the Vienna location. In addition, the airport has heard from Ireland-based Shamrock Airways about the possibility of creating an international air cargo distribution hub here. The proposed operation would initially consist of two or three weekly trans-Atlantic flights using DC-9, DC-8 or B-727 aircraft.