Westmoreland to D.C. Service Eyed out of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

A direct path from Westmoreland County to the nation's capital may be airborne by summer, depending on what people have to say.

Before finalizing a deal with what would be the county's second commercial air service, Arnold Palmer Regional Airport Manager Gabe Monzo is seeking the public's input.

Monzo said Friday that he wants to hear from anyone who has anything to say about a proposed flight schedule between Arnold Palmer and Dulles International Airport. Dulles is located in Virginia, about 26 miles from downtown Washington, D.C.

One-way tickets would range between $90 and $150, Monzo said, adding that the number of flights each day and when they would be departing has not been determined.

Dulles would be a final destination, not a connecting hub, Monzo said, meaning travelers who want to go elsewhere would have to make other arrangements.

"Would you use it? Do you need it? Do you want us to pursue it?" he asked. "If there's no response or it's 'Hey, you're out of your mind,' OK, that's what we needed to know."

Although he said releasing the name of the prospective carrier may compromise the deal, Monzo said the airline could be flying out of Arnold Palmer by summer depending on the public comments he hears in the next two weeks.

Monzo said he thinks the service would be a valuable option -- especially for business travelers -- to add to the twice-daily flights operated by Northwest Airlines between Arnold Palmer and Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Although saying they'd like passenger loads from Westmoreland County to improve, Northwest officials recently announced they will continue daily flights after the current one-year deal with Arnold Palmer airport lapses April 1.

Northwest spokesman Dean Breest said the airline welcomes competition but questioned whether the number of travelers departing from Arnold Palmer airport creates a demand for a second service.

Since the service to Detroit began in April, Northwest partner Mesaba Airlines has been taking off in Unity Township with planes between 31 percent and 67 percent full, according to the airport authority.

Monzo said the flight records show that a minimal number of people departing from Arnold Palmer on Northwest are making Dulles International a final destination. Whether that means people generally don't want to fly there or that they would if the only service available didn't require a layover hundreds of miles off-course in Michigan, Monzo said he won't know until he receives public feedback.

Andy Stofan, president of the Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks adding regular service to Dulles could help grow business in Westmoreland County.

"It's a good tool," he said. "If it's going to materialize, I'm sure it will be welcome."

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