With legislation pending that could disrupt commercial air service at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, airport manager Terry Moore said he remains optimistic.
Commercial passenger use at the airport has dwindled from more than 40,000 in the early 1990s to about 5,000 passengers last year but there have been recent gains, he said.
"We had 570 passengers last month and that's the best I've seen since I've been here," said Moore, who has managed the local airport near Waverly for the past five years. "Right now, we're providing the best service I feel we have offered in a long time, perhaps ever."
In October, Gulfstream International Airlines began commercial service from the local airport to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport as Continental Connection with four flights a day and a total of 24 flights a week.
Previous carrier, Colgan Air was under a codeshare agreement with United Airlines. In May 2007, Colgan provided 18 flights a week, with three flights a day to Washington's Dulles International Airport. In April 2009 the number of flights was dropped to 12 a week and two a day.
"Our service is basically business-oriented ... Most people who fly in or out of here are business travelers," Moore said. "The people going on vacation in June and bringing the kids with them are not our bread and butter but I'd love to see them here. I always invite people to take a look at us. If we're not the deal you're looking for, I understand, but at least give us a look."
Moore said Gulfstream has been offering deals recently, including round-trip service to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for $209.
"It's almost worth going just to walk around and say you've been there for that price," Moore said.
This month, the U.S. House and Senate have been considering legislation that could dramatically impact the future of the local airport, which is considered an "Essential Air Service" airport. The designation means air carriers are subsidized for providing service to the rural airport. Gulfstream was awarded a two-year, $2.6 million contract to provide service to the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport.
The House voted to eliminate future funding for Essential Air Service, while the Senate is considering eliminating some of the funding over the next four years.
"Right now, the Senate Bill would not affect us but we are monitoring it very closely," Moore said. "We're talking about a third of our budget, which we wouldn't be able to make up. It would be devastating to our community, but I remain hopeful that won't happen, because I really think we've turned a corner."
Moore said the loss of industry and changes in how remaining companies do business has resulted in a lot of the loss of service at the airport.
He said the airport has the potential to serve 10,000 people each year.