August 4, 2008

MOV Airport Board Recommends Colgan for Contract

By Harris, Linda

Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Terry Moore figures he'll know very soon which of the two carriers bidding to supply them with air service will get the contract.

Only Colgan, the current carrier, and Florida-based Gulfstream were interested in providing feeder service to the regional airport. Colgan proposed to fly through Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., and Gulfstream through Cleveland's Hopkins International.

Colgan sought a roughly $2.2 million federal subsidy to provide 12 flights each week on Saab 340's, which seat as many as 30-34 people. Gulfstream asked for about $2.3 million in federal subsidies for 18 flights each week using the smaller Beech turboprop, which seats only 19.

MOVRA's board has recommended that the U.S. Department of Transportation award the contract to Colgan, though Moore concedes the decision was a difficult one. But Gulfstream is new to northern markets - until now, its focused on serving Florida and the Bahamas - and that, coupled with its designation of the Cleveland airport as its hub, was enough to tip the scales in Colgan's favor.

A previous carrier, RegionsAir, also had attempted to establish feeder service via Cleveland but after a few tumultuous months that company, plagued by delays and flight cancellations, ultimately lost the contract.

"We weren't enamored with Cleveland because of the stigma when RegionsAir was here," Moore said. "Gulfstream made a good presentation, but the airport authority was concerned that they were going to be starting up service in Dubois and Franklin (PA), Jamestown (N.Y.) and Lewisburg (all at once) and we'd have been in there, too. That's four brand-new markets, plus them establishing a maintenance facility, all essentially at the same time. They might have been able to do it without any hiccups, but because of our experience with RegionsAir ... we were reluctant to try again. Had Gulfstream had a proven track record with established markets up here, things might have gone differently."

Moore this week submitted the paperwork relaying his board's support for Colgan. The recommendation, due by the end of the week, will be a factor in DOT's decision. Because it would be a continuation of service, Moore expects "a fairly rapid" response from the government agency.

"Two flights a day is just not that good, but we feel we've jerked the public around four times in the last year-and-a-half already," Moore said. "Continuity is important, and we've changed so many times, they're confused and disappointed. They need something they can rely on and get used to, and we're trying to provide that. We certainly hope that (enplanements) will be such that possibly a third flight can be added at some point in the not-too-distant future."

Colgan has been supplying feeder service to the Parkersburg area since May 2007 but, faced with mounting costs, its parent company, Pinnacle, withdrew earlier this year in order to re-bid coverage.

Despite offering fewer flights, Colgan actually will have more seats - somewhere between 60 and 68 - to fill each day, compared to the 57 seats available each dayon Gulfstream's 19-seat planes. He also said Colgan has indicated that, if numbers warrant, it would consider adding a third flight with one unspecified stop between Parkersburg and Dulles.

Copyright State Journal Corporation Jul 18, 2008

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