PTI Skybus enticements grow

Piedmont Triad International Airport sweetened the pot Wednesday in its quest to recruit a Skybus Airlines base, as other public and private groups in the region pledged money to help promote the airline.

Beginning in January, the airport will pay a bounty of $2.15 for each passenger who boards any airline's nonstop flight to a destination not previously being served from PTI, the Airport Authority said at a special meeting Wednesday.

PTI is competing with Richmond, Va., which has put forth an offer of about $50 million for Skybus to open a "focus city" there, according to Winston-Salem economic development officials.

But PTI has an offer that could equal Virginia's if Skybus performs according to its promises, says a letter from Don Flow and Allen Joines of the Winston-Salem Alliance to the Forsyth County Tourism Development Authority.

Flow, the alliance's chairman and a member of the airport authority, and Joines, also Winston-Salem's mayor, said that Skybus must bring in 500,000 new passengers annually to PTI before it would be eligible for the assistance.

It is considering setting up an operation similar to the one in its headquarters of Columbus, Ohio, which serves 15 cities nonstop each day.

The airline promises 1.2 million passengers at its second focus city, according to the letter.

The airport's new incentives policy applies to all airlines and expires on Dec. 31, 2010.

The $2.15 per passenger incentive is separate from other offers on the table for Skybus. The airport's payout will come from PTI's parking, retail, food and other passenger service revenues.

PTI has also collected a war chest of money that could promote Skybus if it comes here. In September, the Guilford County Commissioners gave it $300,000 to promote any new nonstop service.

And a variety of other groups across the Triad are rallying to the cause.

Groups in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point are committing more than $600,000 to promote the airline if it chooses PTI over Richmond.

The Forsyth County Tourism Development Authority approved $100,000 on Tuesday, and a private group will pay $100,000.

Greensboro's Tourism Development Authority recently approved a $200,000 pledge, said authority President Henri Fourrier, and an unnamed private group will pledge another $150,000.

A private group in High Point is donating $100,000, according to the Forsyth County letter.

No officials at PTI or the state Department of Commerce would comment about incentives for Skybus on Wednesday.

Asked why the airport authority is acting so swiftly on an incentives policy it has talked about for months, airport Executive Director Ted Johnson just smiled and said: "We want the airlines to understand we're open for business."

Contact Richard M. Barron at 373-7371 or dbarron@news-record.com

nThe airport is competing against incentives offered by Richmond, Va., that total about $50 million.


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