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Concord airport looks to lure low-cost carrier

Concord Regional Airport has applied for $250,000 worth of federal grants to help lure a low-cost carrier – possibly Allegiant Air – to begin regular service to four vacation destinations.

Concord’s airport currently handles charter planes and general aviation but has no scheduled air service from a passenger carrier. According to documents filed by the airport, Concord officials believe a low-cost carrier would offer travelers more options and an alternative to flying from Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

The application says Concord Regional is seeking non-daily service from Concord to Las Vegas, Tampa, Orlando and the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area. The airport argues that Concord fliers are priced out of many flights from Charlotte Douglas.

“Travelers in and out of Charlotte pay, on average, 33 percent more than their counterparts in other cities in the Southeast,” wrote Concord Regional officials. They say federal data show that passengers flying from Charlotte Douglas pay an average of 22 cents per mile, while the average for East Coast hubs is 16.5 cents.

“Concord passengers are being suppressed by high fares at Charlotte,” officials wrote. “These passengers would be best served by local air service, at Concord Regional Airport, rather than an additional competitor at Charlotte.”

For example, Concord Regional officials say that the average fare from Charlotte to Tampa, Fla., has increased 27 percent since 2007, to $188 each way. That would add $320 to ticket costs for a family of four, Concord Regional officials wrote, which they believe is enough to induce people to travel by car instead.

Allegiant Air filed a letter in support of Concord Regional’s application. “While I cannot guarantee Allegiant Air would begin service at (Concord), we have very serious interest in this market,” wrote Eric Fletcher, Allegiant’s manager of airport planning.

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air uses a distinctive business model. The carrier buys old planes and flies exclusively from small cities to vacation destinations, using fees for everything from water and overhead bins and ancillary revenue from hotels and rental cars to supplement its rock-bottom fares.

Uses for city money

Concord Regional, which is owned by the city, would also spend $100,000 worth of local money in addition to the federal grant. The money would be used to fund advertising to make fliers aware of the new service. In addition to the cash subsidy, Concord Regional would waive the airline’s landing fees and terminal rent for two years, and unnamed local media companies would offer discounted advertising rates, according to the application.

Concord Regional officials wrote that they have met with multiple airlines over the past eight months and that service could begin as soon as this winter if the federal grant is approved. Last year, 40,154 passengers flew to and from Concord Regional on charter flights.

The application was reported earlier by the John Locke Foundation.

Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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