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Contour adding second Tampa flight in fall

WILLIAMSTOWN — Contour Airlines plans to begin offering a second weekly flight to and from Tampa, Fla., this fall.

The additional flight was discussed at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Wood County Airport Authority.

Since taking over as the commercial carrier for the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport in December, Tennessee-based Contour has provided flights between the local airport and Charlotte, N.C., along with a flight that continues on to Tampa on Wednesdays. The Tampa flights were expected to end in April, airport Manager Glen Kelly said, but the response has been strong enough to keep it on the schedule.

In October or November, the company will offer the same route on Saturdays as well.

“That’s a big deal for (Contour) to give that to us,” authority member Terry Moore said.

Contour’s flights are subsidized by federal Essential Air Service, but the flights to Tampa are not underwritten by that funding, Kelly said.

“If the tickets don’t sell, I’m sure those flights will go away,” he said. “I think if you want more, you fill these planes up.”

Authority President Bill Richardson said starting the flights in the fall is good timing, since some folks may want to venture to warmer temperatures then. He and Kelly noted that in addition to Tampa’s attractions, there are other destinations within a reasonable rental car drive, including Clearwater, Ybor City, Fort Myers and Orlando.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Richardson said.

The additional flight is expected to be available around the same time an interline agreement allowing passengers to book flights to and from the local airport on the same ticket as connections at Charlotte goes into effect. Airport officials are optimistic that will continue to bolster enplanement numbers.

The airport recorded 441 enplanements in June, up 80 from the same month in 2018 and just the second time the threshold of 400 has been crossed since December 2017.

“I believe we’re closing in on going for that 500 step,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s long-term goal is averaging more than 800 enplanements a month and pushing the annual passenger number above 10,000. That would increase the airport’s federal Aviation Improvement Program allocation from $150,000 to $1 million.

He credits Contour’s reliable performance — such as completing 100 percent of its flights in June — with increasing customer confidence.

“It’s reliable,” said Wood County Commissioner Bob Tebay, a member of the authority. “That’s the story we want to pass.”

Kelly credited increased advertising in billboards and print with the last two months of strong numbers.

In other business, Kelly said the planned runway resurfacing project will be advertised this week, with bids to be opened Aug. 7. The airport was awarded $8 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the project.

The contract must be signed before Sept. 30, the end of the current federal fiscal year, Kelly said, but the work won’t begin until the spring.

“We have to have everything done, but breaking ground, this FY,” he said.

Evan Bevins can be contacted at

ebevins@newsandsentinel.com

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