Oct. 27--Passenger traffic at Harrisburg International Airport continues to decline, pushing airport revenue below projections for the year.
Last month, 103,378 travelers flew into or out of HIA, a 5.58 percent decrease from September 2004.
Cliff Jones, a member of the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority that owns and operates HIA, said bankrupt airlines are offering fewer flights on smaller planes with fewer seats.
Three of the top four carriers that serve HIA -- Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and United -- are operating under bankruptcy protection.
The airport's No. 1 carrier, US Airways, recently emerged from bankruptcy and is billing itself as the largest low-cost carrier, HIA Aviation Director Fred Testa said.
"It may be low-cost, but it's high fares," he added.
Testa predicted that the downward trend in passenger traffic at HIA will continue for the rest of the year because of the sudden shutdown of the bankrupt TransMeridian Airlines on Oct. 1. TransMeridian had been offering two nonstop flights a week from HIA to Orlando-Sanford International Airport in Florida.
So far this year, HIA's passenger traffic is down 3.43 percent when compared to the first nine months of 2004. At the same time, the number of seats available on departing flights out of the airport has declined nearly 8 percent.
Jones said Testa and his staff are making "every effort ... to secure another airline for this airport. If that happens, we'll see an increase in seats."
Testa said "talks have been very productive, and hopefully they will bear fruit some time in the near future."
"It just seems odd all our seats are full but we can't get larger planes," authority member John Ward observed.
Testa said it costs airlines more money to put larger planes in the air. "The airlines are in crisis right now because of fuel prices," he noted.
Testa said HIA and other airports have lost passengers to Philadelphia International Airport, where US Airways and Southwest Airlines are engaged in an aggressive fare war.
Corresponding to the decline in traffic has been a drop in airport revenue.
In September, revenue was 9.3 percent less than had been budgeted.
And revenue so far this year is 2.5 percent less than expected.
However, total revenue so far this year still is 35 percent more than in the first nine months of 2004 because of higher revenue from the car-rental operations, parking and concessions in the new terminal, Testa said.
In other business Wednesday the authority, which also owns and operates Capital City Airport, unanimously approved a $62,000 settlement with former employee Garin Moore.
Moore had claimed in a federal lawsuit that Testa and Capital City Airport eliminated his maintenance job because of his union-organizing activities.
A federal court jury in Harrisburg found last year that the authority had violated Moore's rights and awarded him $42,000 for lost wages and $20,000 in punitive damages.
Under the settlement, both sides give up the right to appeal, which saves the airport the cost of additional legal fees, Testa said.
Efforts to contact Moore were unsuccessful.
News stories provided by third parties are not edited by "Site Publication" staff. For suggestions and comments, please click the Contact link at the bottom of this page.
The number of travelers flying into and out of Harrisburg International Airport last month was 9 percent less than in January 2005.
The total number of passengers was down more than 11 percent in July and 2.3 percent so far this year when compared to 2004 figures.
Billboards will go up for three months in the Harrisburg, Erie, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Allentown areas.
Now that the airport's only low-cost carrier, TransMeridian, pulled out after a failed restructuring plan, officials there must try to fill the hole it left behind.