Pennsylvania Airport in Winter Funk With 4.3 Percent Fewer Travelers in Feb.

Lehigh Valley International Airport had its worst February in at least 10 years because Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines have cut local service in recent months, according to a traffic report released Wednesday.

About 55,300 passengers went through the airport last month, a drop of 4.3 percent from February 2005.

The airport has seen dramatic drops in passenger volume on some of its larger carriers.

Delta Connection carried 36 percent fewer passengers this February than last. Northwest's passenger traffic fell 29 percent.

"Both our big airlines are in bankruptcy -- United Express and US Airways," said George Doughty, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, which runs the Hanover Township, Lehigh County, airport. "They've pulled down their service. It happened in the fall, before reforms in bankruptcy laws went into effect.

"Delta was doing good business, with five flights to Atlanta from here. Now they're down to three. We need them to go back to the original service."

Doughty called the situation a significant problem that won't go away until summer.

"We're depending on Allegiant to take care of the Florida market for us," he said.

The Las Vegas airline moved into the Lehigh Valley market last year, and flew about 3,800 passengers through LVIA in February. Another airline new to LVIA in 2005, Hooters Air, carried 2,831 passengers at the airport last month.

Neither airline had LVIA flights in February 2005.

Doughty said he wasn't sure about the future of Hooters, which owes LVIA money for fuel, but Allegiant appeared strong.

"Allegiant has been giving passengers good care," he said. "The company has money and is spending money."

LVIA has not fully recovered from the November 2004 departure of Southeast Airlines, a small carrier that flew popular nonstop flights to three cities in Florida.

February's traffic statistics are the second the airport has released since announcing passenger volume fell about 18 percent in 2005.


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