VIENNA - Talks that could bring daily flights back to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport are moving to a new phase after United Airlines last week requested the airport survey local support.
The information was requested by United Airlines representatives during a March 10 meeting in Chicago that was attended by Airport Director of Aviation Dan Dickten, Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber vice president of economic development Sarah Boyarko and others representing the airport. The group met with United officials to discuss potential United Express daily service between the Vienna airport and United hub at Chicago's O'Hare airport.
Dickten previously has said he hoped to secure two round-trip daily flights to a connecting hub, like Chicago, and to negotiate at least a two-year commitment for local daily service.
Dickten is expected to report on progress at this morning's board meeting of the Western Reserve Port Authority, the airport's governmental body.
"Before committing to such an investment, United Airlines needs to gain an understanding of local demand for the service. That review process is now under way," Dickten said in an advance copy of the report he intends to deliver this morning.
"To support this process, in the coming weeks, airport staff will be polling local businesses and individuals to measure the region's collective interest and support for potential United Airlines service from YNG," he said.
The survey requested by United should be completed and returned to United within a few weeks.
Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport has been without daily service for more than a decade. It last operated in 2003 to a hub of a major U.S. airline.
Conversations with United have ramped up following the airline's February announcement that beginning in June, it will be pulling its hub from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and cut its Cleveland flights by more than 60 percent. The move would alleviate some concerns by commercial carriers that daily service in Vienna would affect the number of passengers that prefer to drive to Cleveland or Pittsburgh to catch flights.
Sweetening the deal for any potential daily carrier is a $780,000 Small Communities Air Service Development, or SCAD, grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation earmarked to help establish an airline commuter hub at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. It would be used to guarantee profitability for any airline agreeing to provide regular service at the airport.
The grant, however, must be met with a 35 percent local match. Fundraising efforts are under way by the local airport nonprofit support group, YNG Air Partners.