Lakeland Airport In Talks With Airline About Commercial Flights

Aug. 21--LAKELAND -- Lakeland's airport director is in talks with an Orlando-based airline about commercial flights to three cities.

If talks are successful, the airline would begin flights in March from Lakeland Linder Regional Airport to Memphis, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

Gene Conrad, director of Lakeland Linder, declined to release the name of the airline or the type of plane that would be used for the flights.

He said the airline would use one jet, which would seat about 150 people.

Conrad mentioned the possible service during budget discussions at City Hall late Tuesday.

He stressed Wednesday that talks with the airline are preliminary.

"We have no idea what the cost of a ticket would be," Conrad said. "There is lots to do yet."

If flights start in March, it would be about four years after Direct Air of Myrtle Beach, S.C., began flights from Lakeland Linder.

That service ended badly in 2012 when Direct Air abruptly canceled all its flights, including service to Lakeland. The discount airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few days later. Airline officials blamed "rising fuel costs and other operating expenses." Direct Air had flown to Myrtle Beach, Niagara Falls, N.Y., Plattsburgh, N.Y., and Springfield, Ill., from Lakeland.

Conrad said the airport would need to notify Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration officials about the new plans at least 90 days before flights occur. "They would need to come in and review our security plan again," he said.

Conrad said the airport would likely spend money on marketing if a deal occurs.

Big companies also have taken an interest in bringing airline service to Lakeland Linder.

Conrad discussed with commissioners a letter that Ed Crenshaw, chief executive officer of Publix Super Markets, sent to Richard Anderson, Delta Air Lines CEO, about the benefits of bringing airline service to Lakeland Linder.

"That was a big thing for Publix to put out a letter," Conrad told commissioners.

He said the airport also has recently talked with Caesars Entertainment about gambling trips to Biloxi, Miss. That plan was temporarily scrapped because of the long process to upgrade security.

Conrad told commissioners he plans to revisit the Biloxi flights once the airport has regular commercial service.

 

 

Copyright 2014 - The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.

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