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May 7, 2014

Four airlines competing to serve region

JOHNSTOWN — Four airlines are vying for millions in federal subsidies to operate flights to John Murtha Johnstown Cambria County Airport and Altoona Blair County Airport.

But it’s too early to say if the interest is encouraging for the beleaguered Johnstown facility, airport authority Chairman Rich Weaver said.

“We haven’t discussed it as a group yet,” he said.

Silver Airways of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, currently receives slightly less than

$4 million a year in federal Essential Air Service subsidies for flights between Johnstown-Altoona and Dulles International Airport near Washington. Its contract ends in June.

Silver is asking for nearly

$3.8 million in its renewal proposal, including $2.2 million for the Johnstown service.

Also submitting Johnstown proposals were:

• City Link Air of Jacksonville, Florida, $2.1 million for service to Pittsburgh.

• Boutique Air of Las Vegas,

$2 million for service to Pittsburgh or $2.7 million for Pittsburgh and Dulles.

• SunAir of Dania Beach, Florida, $2.7 million to Pittsburgh.

Essential Air Service was instituted to maintain commercial air service in smaller airports.

Some of the proposals come from airlines interested in the PIT Connector Project, a consortium of regional airports exploring connector flights to Pittsburgh International Airport.

Weaver is attending a PIT connector meeting next week and expects to hear from some of the airlines’ representatives.

“Some of those submitting proposals will be at the meeting,” Weaver said.

While airport leaders openly concede that passenger service to Johnstown airport depends on the federal subsidy, the authority is constantly investigating options to improve the financial viability of the service.

Randy Griffith covers transportation for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ photogriffer57.

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