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News Article - April 26, 2007

'Radical' action urged to attract airlines to LVIA  
  HANOVER TWP. | Bert Daday on Tuesday suggested Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Executive Director George Doughty do something "radical" to stop the loss of airlines, service routes and customers at Lehigh Valley International Airport. The longtime authority board member said Doughty ought to ask airlines that fly from Philadelphia what it would take to bring them to LVIA and entice them with incentives such as six months of waived landing fees.

   "I just don't think that we are utilizing all of our talents in trying to develop a competitive plan," Daday said during the board's monthly meeting. Most air carriers aren't interested in expanding to LVIA or anywhere else in today's market, no matter what incentives are available, said Doughty, who noted the airport already offers landing fee waivers. Those few airlines eyeing expansion are interested in sustainable markets rather than incentives, he explained.

   LVIA's proximity to two big city airports make attracting airlines and maintaining a strong customer base even tougher, Doughty said. "The problem that we face is we're a small outfit in a large market and our market is being sucked away by two 800-pound gorillas" -- Newark Liberty and Philadelphia international airports, he said.

   Board member Joseph F. Leeson Jr. said he recently called AirTran and JetBlue -- two air carriers considering LVIA -- to talk up the airport and this area. During his conversation with an executive from AirTran, he asked, "What's it going to take to get you here?" The executive replied, "We need to know that once we get there, the market will sustain us." Leeson said he called the airlines at Doughty's behest.

   Nearly 790,000 travelers used LVIA in 2006, marking the third straight annual decline since 2004, when the airport served 1 million passengers. Hooters Air also pulled service from the airport last year and US Airways this month announced its plan to end flights from LVIA to Pittsburgh.

Source - Express Times



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