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"Charleston Airport tries to woo low-cost carrier"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Charleston Airport tries to woo low-cost carrier
The Charleston (SC) Post and Courier

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Tourism and business leaders are teaming with Charleston
International Airport officials to try and increase traffic and attract a
low-cost carrier to the region.

The Charleston County Aviation Authority approved a plan last week to hire
an air-service consultant with the help of the Charleston Metro Chamber of
Commerce and the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Each group will pay a third of the cost. It's the first time the groups have
teamed up to try to boost airport traffic.

Tourism and business officials worry Charleston is getting a reputation for
having high airline prices, turning away lucrative corporate and government
meetings and keeping visitors from flying in.

Passenger volume at the Charleston airport was off 13 percent this year
through November, as carriers trimmed service and boosted fares.

The biggest blow to the airport came in January when Independence Air,
Charleston's lone discount carrier, folded.

Then in September, Delta Air Lines, the airport's dominant carrier, trimmed
about one-third of its local routes.

"It's very difficult to fly 2,000 people in on Sunday and get them out
Wednesday," said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area
Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Likely at the top of the list of discount carriers Charleston would like to
woo is AirTran Airways, which announced earlier this month it has eliminated
its April-September service to Myrtle Beach.

AirTran's decision to stop its Grand Strand routes certainly helps
Charleston's effort to land the airline, said David Jennings, chairman of
the airport authority.

"Now, AirTran only has one destination into coastal South Carolina. ... We
believe that we are an ideal second destination for them," Jennings said.

Representatives from the three groups do not know how long the consultant
will work or how much the advice would cost.

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