Kelly talks airport at Parkersburg Rotary Club

Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Glen Kelly listens to a question during his presentation at the Parkersburg Rotary Club meeting Monday at Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — With Via Air completing 94 percent of its flights since November and an interline agreement with American Airlines in place, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Glen Kelly asked members of the Parkersburg Rotary Club Monday to consider flying out of the local airport.

“Parking’s free; the lines are short; it’s very convenient,” he said. “I urge you to try us again.”

Kelly was the speaker at the club’s weekly lunch meeting at the Blennerhassett Hotel, outlining the status of Via’s service, as well as touching on plans to establish a foreign trade zone at the airport.

Via provides service to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where American Airlines offers more than 1,900 connections to places around the country and internationally, Kelly said.

The interline agreement makes the airport “usable for the business public,” he said. Without that, passengers would have to recheck their bags and go through security again before getting on a connecting flight with American.

“For a businessperson, completely unacceptable,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the airport has a great deal of potential, noting it recorded 26,000 annual enplanements a year or two before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“This is the third busiest airport in the state of West Virginia when it comes to takeoffs and landings,” he said, adding corporate air travel and West Virginia National Guard helicopters are significant contributors.

The 9-11 attacks significantly changed the airline industry, as did legislation passed in 2010 raising the requirements for commercial airline pilots, he said.

Both factors contributed to the decline in traffic and service at the airport, Kelly said. The highest number of enplanements for a year in the last decade was 8,126 in 2013. In 2017, there were 3,646 enplanements, due in part to a rocky few months to start the year after Via debuted to much fanfare the previous October.

But with Via providing reliable service, Kelly believes the airport can climb above 10,000 enplanements a year within the next 18 months. That would increase the facility’s federal allocation for Airport Improvement Program funds from $115,000 to $1 million, he said.

Rotarian Hal Foss asked Kelly how much of an increase in enplanements it would take to add more flights per day. Kelly said it would be a large number because Via is subsidized by federal Essential Air Service, which pays for a certain number of flights per week.

After the meeting, Foss said he tries to use the local airport when he flies.

“I go to Denver a lot, and I always try, but it usually doesn’t work,” he said of the schedules.

But he noted a friend who travels internationally won’t fly out of anywhere else because of the free parking.

Rotarian Doug Kreinik said he and his wife use the airport when they can.

“I love to do it because there’s no parking (fee), but sometimes the schedule doesn’t work out for me,” he said. “I love the fact that now you can take luggage.”

Kelly also touched on his efforts to develop a foreign trade zone, where materials and products shipped internationally can be stored without tariffs or duties being assessed. He said it can cost about $100,000 a year, so a fee-based model in which multiple companies use and support the zone is an option.