Fresno Offering Cash to Lure Flights to New Markets

The incentives for airlines that could be worth from $30,000 to $60,000 for each new direct, round-trip flight to a U.S. city.

In an effort to help Valley residents reach more cities from their local airport, Fresno officials will expand incentives to lure more airlines and add destinations to Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

The Fresno City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved incentives for airlines that could be worth from $30,000 to $60,000 for each new direct, round-trip flight to a U.S. city not currently available from Fresno.

The incentives -- including waivers of fees and rent for unused space -- would last for 120 days.

Airlines must use planes with at least 50 seats to qualify.

"We have some empty space right now, and we're looking to fill it up," aviation director Russ Widmar said.

The airport already offers incentives to carriers that add international flights to new cities.

Incentive packages for domestic flights similar to Fresno's are offered at airports throughout the country, Widmar said, including those in Sacramento and Dallas-Fort Worth.

He said the incentives have helped those cities attract more flights.

Each new city added to the Fresno airport's roster of destinations produces between $60,000 to $120,000 in annual revenue, Widmar said.

Additional revenue would be generated by parking fees, concession profits and user fees the airport charges to car rental companies.

Travelers can fly nonstop to 10 cities from Fresno.

San Diego and Chicago top Widmar's wish list of new destinations.

"If we attract just one more airline in the near term, this would be a success," Widmar said.

Said City Council President Henry T. Perea: "It would be nice to be able to fly straight to San Diego."

Widmar hopes the incentives attract more airlines to Fresno. But the fee and rent waivers also are available to airlines already in Fresno that add destinations.

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