Authority opts for Silver Airways

WILLIAMSTOWN – The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Authority is recommending Silver Airways to provide air service here.

Last week, the authority decided Silver Airways had the best services that could be offered at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, Airport Manager Jeff McDougle said.

The company, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was one of four airlines to submit bid packages last month to provide federally subsidized commercial air service at the airport.

Silver Airways has provided service between the airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport since October 2010. Cleveland is no longer in the running for Essential Air Service flights because it is no longer a hub for any major airline, which makes it difficult for passengers to catch flights to their desired destination.

The airport also received bid packages from Boutique Air, City Link Air and Sun Air Express.

Silver’s bid is for nine communities: Altoona, Pa.; Johnstown, Pa.; Greenbrier/White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.; Beckley, W.Va.; Clarksburg; Morgantown; Staunton, Va.; DuBois, Pa.; and Parkersburg. The airline will replace its Beech 1900 aircraft, which sat 19 passengers, and will use Saab 3400, 34-passenger, planes for these flights.

The Silver Airways bid of 18 flights a week, two non-stop and one one-stop round trips each weekday, to Washington Dulles International Airport best meets the needs of this community, said Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Authority President David M. Scott in a June 12 letter to the Office of Aviation Analysis at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Although we benefit greatly from our present flight frequency (we have four daily weekday flights with 19 passenger aircraft), the 34 seat Saab aircraft will enhance passenger convenience and give our airport true passenger growth potential,” Scott wrote. “In addition, Silver’s codeshare arrangement with United Airlines and numerous interline agreements with other air carriers were key factors in our decision. Lastly, Washington Dulles, being a United Airlines hub, provides our community with the greatest number of non-stop destinations; over 80 domestic and 40 international.”

The authority was grateful for the other bids that were received utilizing the Pittsburgh Airport as the hub airport, he said.

“Pittsburgh has been a key airport in our history,” Scott wrote. “However, at this point in time, Pittsburgh does not have a hub airline that would provide the destination opportunities that our community has grown accustomed to by flying through Cleveland.”

The other three airlines that put in bids for service lacked codeshare and interline agreements which were a major negative to the authority, Scott said.

“Without these arrangements, passengers from our community would have faced many challenges in Pittsburgh, whether it was in transfer of baggage on connecting flights or potentially having to go in and out of security if a flight connection is missed,” Scott wrote. “Also, we were not confident that the airlines could handle the start-up of new service to all of the cities they bid.

“We have endured that problem before when a new airline was awarded our service bid and never provided the service. It took us many years to recover from the total disruption of service and resultant loss of passengers.”

At this time, the authority feels “Silver Airways is the best option for our community,” Scott wrote.

Although the airport is recommending Silver Airways, the Department of Transportation will make the final decision, McDougle said. That decision is expected in two to three weeks, he added.

The department will determine the winning bid and then the airline will notify the airport of when service will begin.

“We are expecting it to be sometime in late August or early September,” McDougle said.