Harrisburg, Pa., Airport Seeks New Low-Cost Carrier

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.


Oct. 5--The plight of Harrisburg International Airport continues.

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.

But because the airline only provided HIA passengers with service to Orlando, Fla. -- representing about 2.3 percent of the airport's monthly passengers -- its loss is not devastating, said members of the Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority. The authority oversees both HIA and Capital City Airport in Fairview Township.

"We're going to continue to do what we had been doing while TransMeridian was still operating, which is actively marketing low-cost carriers with the hope of getting a low-cost service into Harrisburg International," said Timothy Tate, secretary of the authority's board. "Obviously, we'd like to get a low-cost carrier as quickly as possible and we have been working diligently on marketing to low-cost carriers over the years.

"We continue to market to them," he said, "but the overall state of the airline industry right now is not real good."

Over the past few years, a handful of airlines have filed for bankruptcy, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

Yet, both Tate and fellow board member David Carver expressed utmost confidence in HIA Director of Aviation Alfred Testa Jr., a 14-year veteran of the aviation industry.

"The board is comfortable that Mr. Testa and his staff will be able to identify and secure a low-cost carrier for that particular route," Carver said.

Airports love low-cost carriers -- Southwest, in particular -- because they bring potential for growth, said Kurt Forsgren, transportation group director at Standard & Poor's in Boston. Officials at HIA would like to grow the airport from its current 1.4 million passenger to 6 million passengers over the next several years.

Low-cost carriers "also bring down the price of competing low-cost carriers, which boosts the effects of having a low-cost carrier," Forsgren said.

Carver took a two-sided view, cautioning that HIA needs to attract a low-cost carrier that provides service to more than one destination, and that it also should consider that Southwest is operating in neighboring airports.

"I think you have to also look at what exists in the marketplace," he said. "Southwest has a major hub in Baltimore and has already established itself in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which is part of our market area. That low-cost carrier that we would secure has to take that into account. It may not be the best option for us to pursue."

AIRLINES SERVICING HIA:

--Air Canada

--American Eagle

--Continental Airlines

--Delta Air Lines

--Northwest Airlines

--United Airlines

--U.S. Airways

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