The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is challenging airlines and other travel industry entities to help attract business to Niagara Falls International Airport.
The NFTA board of commissioners Monday approved a $200,000 cooperative marketing program, combined with incentives to help bring the near-idle Niagara County airfield back to life.
"In order to attract service to Niagara Falls we have to do everything we can to market the facility," said NFTA Executive Director Lawrence Meckler. "This will give the airlines and other travel partners added motivation to take a chance on Niagara Falls."
The marketing effort, which kicks off Friday, includes such incentives as waiver of landing, terminal and apron parking fees for airlines that bring new regularly scheduled passenger flights and charter service to Niagara Falls. The service must operate a minimum of one, 50-seat flight per week for four consecutive months to qualify for the fee waivers. The fees can be waived for up to 12 months.
The $200,000 in matching advertising/marketing funds would be subject to similar flight and passenger minimums. No airline or travel partner can collect more than $50,000 in matching marketing funds.
Just last week, the NFTA announced Myrtle Beach Direct Air and Tours will begin twice-a-week flights and golf vacations to South Carolina in March.
"The momentum at Niagara Falls airport is undeniable. We think we've found a way to build on that," Meckler said.
The airport has also attracted new cargo business over the past year.
In other airport-related developments, Florida-bound travelers will have two new direct-flight options to Orlando in the first quarter of 2007. AirTran Airways will launch its first direct flight from Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Jan. 11.
The airline currently offers connecting service from Buffalo on 10 flights per day. As of Jan. 11, it will offer the new midafternoon direct flight to Orlando, as well as seven connecting flights.
And just in time for spring break, Southwest Airlines will add a third daily direct flight to Orlando, starting March 11.
The NFTA commissioners also received a pitch from the nonprofit group Citizens Regional Transit Corp. to extend Metro Rail through the emerging Cobblestone District.
The group proposes a 1.2-mile surface loop around the neighborhood to serve HSBC Arena, Buffalo Seneca Creek Casino, Lofts @ Elk Terminal and other Cobblestone sites. The estimated price tag of the line extension was pegged at $13 million. Earlier this year, the group proposed extending Metro Rail to the Buffalo airport.
The NFTA currently has no funds to expand the 6.2-mile light rail line.
The transportation agency also set the stage for an overhaul in its annual budget schedule, which is required following changes to New York State's Public Authorities Law. Although the NFTA's budget year begins April 1, it must approve a 2007-08 budget by Dec. 31 instead of March 31 of next year.
Meckler said no fare hikes or service reductions are expected in the fast-tracked budget process. The proposed budget will be released in early December, and public hearings will be scheduled at that time.
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