CRW chief says federal grant to expand air service a ‘great opportunity’

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -West Virginia Yeager International Airport director and CEO Nick Keller said the facility has an opportunity ahead of it after receiving a federal grant to attract and maintain airfares.

The airport (CRW) received a grant from the Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Services Development Program (SCASDP) for a total of $600,000 last week. Keller said he would support new service to Dallas Forth Worth International Airport (DFW) or Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

He told MetroNews it aligns with one of his administration’s strategic goals of increasing air service options. Keller said adding either airport would add more than 20,000 departure seats to the CRW market, driving down airfares.

Nick Keller

“The ability to get additional westbound service and provide connections through Houston or Dallas is a huge opportunity for us,” Keller said.

Keller said it should be noted that the subsidy does not guarantee that CRW will get either service because an airline must commit. However, Keller said American Airlines, which would operate the DFW service, provided a letter of support for the grant application. The IAH service would come from United Airlines.

The grant can be used for an airline revenue guarantee, start-up costs, recruitment costs and marketing to launch and sustain the service.

“It’s kind of like an insurance policy for the airline. It reduces their risk when they have a new service in case the service isn’t viable and doesn’t succeed,” Keller said of the minimum income guarantee.

Keller said a marketing campaign would be launched and it might take one to two years for a new service to “be well known.” He added that there has always been interest in the service in Texas, saying Houston and Dallas are currently in the Top 10 markets for CRW passengers.

He said the direct service would only generate new traffic and make it more convenient for current travellers, by removing an extra stop. He said those currently flying west often fly to Charlotte or Atlanta first.

CRW lost its flight from Dallas in 2015 due to slope failure and lost service from Houston in 2019.

Keller said he hopes to attract the two services, one with the grant and the other with funding sources from a newly formed airline service alliance group.

“We have the money lined up, we have the grant funding, which is a huge step. Now we have to negotiate with the airlines and they have to be able to add capacity to their network,” Keller said of the time it might take for a new service to work.

CRW was one of 25 grant proposals to be selected. In total, the 25 selected applications came from 20 states and awarded nearly $17 million in federal grants.

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