Second airline has interest in Greenville
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
A second airline is interested in Greenville but only if assistance is available to offset the costs associated with launching a new route, said the executive director of the Pitt-Greenville Airport.
Bill Hopper said the airport needs the community's help in guaranteeing that local support, including money, will be available if the airport secures a grant to help bring a new airline to the community.
Hopper presented details about efforts to secure the airline at Monday's Pitt County Board of Commissioners meeting.
The airport is applying for a Small Community Air Service Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grant helps communities improve air service by offering money to help airlines with start-up costs. The grant also would help fund a marketing program and guarantee the airline revenue during the start-up phase.
The airport previously has applied for the grant and been unsuccessful but Hopper believes this application cycle will be different.
"One of the big differences we have this time that we haven't had in the past is we have a letter of support from an airline," he said.
Hopper said he cannot identify the airline but it's a carrier with a major hub in Washington, D.C., that not only has multiple direct routes across the United States but numerous overseas connections.
American Airlines has been a great airline, Hopper said, but its Charlotte hub doesn't have the international connectivity that businesses in this area want.
Along with the support of a second airline, Hopper said the transportation department is looking for local support.
The airport's board of directors has agreed to appropriate $100,000 for a marketing campaign to promote the arrival of a second airline. Numerous entities, along with private industry, also have agreed to raise between $250,000-$300,000 to match the $750,000 in grant funding the airport hopes to receive.
The $750,000 will be split so $100,000 would go to marketing. The remaining $650,000 will be combined with the local money to fund revenue guarantees, or paying for seats that are not filled as the new airline builds its presence in Greenville, Hopper said.
"Whenever an airline comes into a new market they are taking on risk," Hopper said. "They don't meet revenue targets they are looking for, so this mitigates their risk."
It costs an airline about $3 million to provide service in a new community. Hopper said the goal is to have an airline make two trips daily out of Greenville to Washington D.C.
Hopper did caution that just because an airline is supporting the grant application doesn't mean it is agreeing to provide the service. The airline is simply stating they are interested in providing the service, Hopper said.
If a grant is given and the airline decides against servicing Greenville, the money can be used to attract another airline that meets local parameters, namely a company with a Washington hubs and numerous international flights.
"This is about as good as it gets," Hopper said. "The potential here in this area is great. It's a very underserved market and a very exciting time to get this service."