Dec. 19--Hoping to lure additional airlines to Atlantic City International Airport with a souped-up incentive package, a state authority on Wednesday approved a plan that would waive a bevy of fees for airlines for two years.
The South Jersey Transportation Authority approved the plan developed jointly with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which took over as the airport's operator in July.
The plan provides incentives for both domestic and international flights that could equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for the airlines, officials said.
EJ Mullins, interim general manager of the airport, said he's met with two dozen airlines since the Port Authority took over operations. All have the same question.
"Every discussion opens with, 'What can you give us in incentives?'" Mullins said. "It used to be airlines would ask about it. Now they expect it."
Under the plan approved Wednesday, airlines can see discounts for two years for each new route providing non-stop service with at least three flights per week. Domestic year-round flights can see landing fees, common use fees, fuel fees and ground landing fees completely waived. Rentals on up to 300 square feet of of space in the airport will also be waived for two years, and a marketing incentive of up to $60,000 will be provided.
International year-round flights can see the same benefits with up to $120,000 in marketing incentives provided. The plan also provides incentives for international charter service with all fees waived for landing, terminal use and loading bridges.
The actual dollar value of the incentive will vary based on the weight of an aircraft, the number of new routes and the amount of space the airlines take up in the airport. An average start-up cost for a station in the airport runs in the neighborhood of $350,000, said Mullins, adding that the incentives would reduce those costs.
Wednesday's resolution did not tie a specific dollar amount from SJTA's budget to the incentive program, but other agencies have committed specific funding amounts.
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority committed as much as $2 million to the program at its meeting on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Atlantic City Alliance has committed $300,000 and is prepared to raise that amount to $600,000, CRDA officials said.
Last month, United Airlines announced it would add daily non-stop flights to its hubs at Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. United will also be eligible to receive the incentives, officials said.
Currently the airport's only carrier is Spirit Airlines. While the airport can now accommodate international flights through an expansion project unveiled last year, the airport does not have any scheduled international service.
The program incentives are based on information the Port Authority has gathered through discussions with airlines and other stakeholders as it sought to attract more airlines to Atlantic City. While the incentives are intended to draw new carriers to the airport, Mullins said the Port Authority hopes that as additional people are drawn to the airport and spend money on food and parking, the costs of the program will be offset.
"This program offers every airline the opportunity to begin new service in Atlantic City, which is great news for the region's local businesses who will benefit from increased air service," Port Authority Chairman David Samson said in a statement.
Still, Mullins said air service development takes time. He would not estimate how long it may take to attract new carriers to the airport with the incentive program in place.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, who chairs the House Aviation Subcommittee, said he hoped airlines seriously review the plan.
"The aggressive approach by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a welcome resource in (Atlantic City's) ongoing efforts to bring additional air service to our region," LoBiondo said in a statement.
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