Florida to LVIA Flight Dilemma: Airlines Can Fill Planes, But Struggle to Make Profit

Airlines that offered nonstop service to Florida cities have come and gone at LVIA. One departed so abruptly it stranded Lehigh Valley residents in Florida and left LVIA with $1 million in unpaid bills.

"It was a 'when' not an 'if' market," Tyra said.

Despite the string of failed airlines, Doughty said he is more optimistic about LVIA's prospects than ever. That's largely because the Lehigh Valley is one of fastest-growing regions in Northeast. Between 2000 and 2004, 30,000 people moved here, and many of them have higher incomes than the local average.

Doughty is courting five airlines, including one that is sending representatives to the Lehigh Valley on Monday to hear his sales pitch. Among the airlines he would like to land at some point are USA 3000, which is based in Newtown Square and flies to Mexico, and Spirit Airlines, which flies to Tampa, Las Vegas and the Caribbean. He has a wish list of cities he would like to add to the airport's roster of destinations. They include Fort Myers in Florida, Dallas and Houston.

Doughty said he does not dwell on the airlines that have failed. Instead, he focuses on the thousands of local passengers who received low-cost, nonstop service to Florida.

"I am looking at it in terms of how much risk I can take without jeopardizing the financial status of the airport," Doughty said. "In business, you have to be willing to take some risk."

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