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DOT Awarding Grants for Airfare to Small Cities

National

Aerial view of the Rochester city skyline. | Image by Davel5957

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DFW International Airport could pick up direct routes to five small cities as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) initiates its program to strengthen service to regional airports.

The DOT’s Small Community Air Service Development Program gave a combined $3.65 million in taxpayer dollars to 5 airports to open non-stop routes to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The airlines and the airport need to come to an agreement, and the flight paths must be approved before they are officially scheduled.

All of these new flights will be able to be booked through Fort Worth-based American Airlines and its regional carriers, which will operate the flights to Rochester, MN; Great Falls, MT; Pasco, WA; and Charleston, SC. Southern Express Airways will operate the route to Natchez, MS. Southern Express has an agreement with American Airlines that allows passengers to book flights, connect tickets, and transfer bags as if they were one airline.

In its application, Rochester said that it was the largest market for DFW travel that did not have a non-stop route. According to the application, Rochester estimates almost 33,000 passengers a year and a minimum of 45 passengers per day to travel to DFW if a new path were to open. The connection to DFW would provide fliers from Rochester International Airport access to a major air travel hub, which is especially important as access to Atlanta has been discontinued.

“The Airport’s passenger retention study highlighted an average of 847 PDEW [passengers per day each way] drive to Minneapolis / St. Paul for flights to cities that would connect in a single stopover DFW on American,” The airport said. “Rochester would only need to capture 8% of that passenger demand to completely fill a daily flight on a 70-seat CRJ700 aircraft.”

In all, $16.9 million went to 25 airports across the country through the program to help create more flights at small airports. It is different from the Essential Air Service Program, which subsidizes flights to small airports without service from any other commercial airline.

The small community grants give money to airports to help with marketing expenses and guarantee a minimum revenue for airlines that start new routes.

One of the three Texan airports picked to receive federal taxpayer dollars was Corpus Christi, which leveraged the money to get Sun Country to connect it with Las Vegas and Denver. The DOT awarded Corpus Christi and McAllen $750,000 each and awarded Laredo with a $250,000 grant.

West Virginia International Yeager Airport in Charleston received a $600,000 grant, allowing it to expand its service into the western region of the United States. The route to DFW International Airport connects the West Virginia community to American Airlines’ biggest hub, which flies to 239 destinations.

“We are thrilled and thankful to have been selected to receive this opportunity and share it with our loyal passengers,” said Nick Keller, West Virginia International Airport director and CEO. “West Virginia’s economy is experiencing significant growth, and we’ve noticed the increasing demand for air service here. Great air service is critical to our region, quality of life, and the ability to attract new visitors and business.”

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Lance
Lance
1 month ago

It’s Charleston, WV., not SC.

RiverKing
RiverKing
Reply to  Lance
1 month ago

Good catch . . I think. It’s sometimes hard to tell which Charleston is being referenced.

Tamara
Tamara
Reply to  Lance
1 month ago

oh bummer. That was the only place I was interested in visiting.

caseyp
caseyp
1 month ago

Why do taxpayers have to pay for the new routes? Typically airlines request new routes if they feel they are profitable. will tax payers continue to pay from now on?

RiverKing
RiverKing
1 month ago

Why was Rochester, MN / Atlanta, GA route discontinued? Maybe supply and demand?

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