Airline hopes grounded

News that a local initiative to work with United Airlines to bring daily air service to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport had stalled was disappointing but not surprising to Warren City Councilman Alford Novak.

Last month, Warren offered the first official government support of the the YNG Air Partners United Airline project by unanimously passing a nonbinding resolution pledging up to $30,000 to the initiative.

“We’d hoped to get the ball rolling and show United we had some possibility here,” Novak said.

”I realize there are other entities vying for them. We made the offer. It didn’t cost us anything. I don’t know whether them pulling out had anything to do with the fact that other entities, other local governments, didn’t want to make a pledge.

”I hope this is just a delay and not the end,” said Novak, D-2nd Ward.

United informed local airport officials on Monday that the airline had concluded there isn’t “a solid business case” for starting daily air service at the airport in Vienna.

The airline cited its first quarter 2014 net loss of $489 million, several failing air service start-ups, crew shortages and other contributing circumstances as factors in its decision not to support any immediate plans to initiate United Connection daily service at the airport in Vienna.

On Tuesday, Dan Dickten, the airport’s director of aviation, released a letter he had written to the WRPA board of directors in which he explained that the revenue guarantee requested by United was four times higher than the $1.75 million the airport’s team said it could raise.

YNG, a nonprofit group, and airport representatives had made several presentations throughout the region attempting to garner pledges from local governments to provide a portion of the incentive money.

The pledge money was to be used to supplement a $1.2 million federal Small Community Air Service Development grant that included a $420,000 local match from the WRPA.

The Cafaro Foundation had also pledged $100,000.

The money would have gone toward guaranteeing the airline at least a 5 percent profit during its first six to eight months if it should choose to add daily service from the local airport.

“We’ll continue trying to get airlines in here,” Dickten said. “All we’re asking for at this point are pledges not for any money up front. We’ll keep working at that.”

Dickten told a Tribune Chronicle reporter on Tuesday that efforts to obtain local pledges will not stop.

In his letter to the WRPA, he advised, “It is imperative that community support for air service at YNG continues at a high level. For this reason, the Air Service Development Team will continue with the Airline Revenue Guarantee Pledge Campaign.

”No contributions will be collected from the pledges unless daily air service is established at YNG. One of the areas where the United Airlines initiative fell short was with the minimum revenue guarantee. The Team will continue to solicit these pledges from both the public and private sectors to insure that the next evaluation for YNG air service exceeds any expectations and requirements by the airlines,” the letter states.