Additional major connection possible for UPA | Central County Gazette


University park airport. Photo of Geoff Rushton |

STATE COLLEGE – The Central County Airport Authority is looking to make another major connection to University Park Airport, and county and local governments are teaming up with a set of ‘incentives’ to strengthen the ‘effort.

The authority is in talks with American Airlines to establish a minimum of two flights per day, six days per week to and from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

On September 14, the Center County Board of Commissioners approved a $ 250,000 pledge of the county’s $ 31 million US bailout fund for an incentive fund that will be offered to American to help cover upfront costs if the airline decides to provide the extended service.

“As we all know, expanding air service is really one of the keys to attracting new, expanded businesses to our area,” County Administrator Margaret Gray said. “We have been told repeatedly that if we could expand air service in and out of University Park Airport, we would have a much better chance of attracting other businesses to the county. . In addition, the expanded air service for our residents opens up many tourism opportunities and many opportunities for our residents to travel outside of the Central and Central County area.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said the airport authority could not use its own operating funds to incentivize airlines. , as well as private sector commitments.

Penn State led a similar effort in 2012-2013 with a $ 500,000 incentive to attract United Airlines to bring service from University Park Airport to Chicago O’Hare.

The Township of Patton watchdog last week approved a pledge of $ 12,500 from bailout funds.

State College is expected to contribute $ 25,000 and the college city council will vote on a potential pledge of $ 10,000 from capital reserve funds at its meeting on Thursday. The Township of Ferguson, the Township of Benner and Bellefonte are also considering contributions. Supervisors in Harris Township refused to provide funding.

A local contingent meets with American Airlines officials on September 22 to outline the incentive program. Local funds for the incentive are dependent on Americans accepting the offer, so county and local governments will not be covered if the route does not materialize.

Pipe told Patton Township supervisors last week that if American goes ahead with the new route, it should be in service at the end of this year or early 2022.

Charlotte is the 11th busiest airport in the United States by total passenger count and offers non-stop service to 175 destinations, including 33 international cities.

A Charlotte route would join regular University Park airport connections which currently include Chicago (US and United), Detroit (Delta), Philadelphia (US), Washington / Dulles (United), Orlando / Stanford (Allegiant) and Tampa / St. Pete (Alleviating).

Pipe said flights from Charlotte would add another major connection, increasing tourism opportunities to and from the area and giving the airport a boost.

“Charlotte really connects them to a lot of other possibilities. It’s very exciting, ”he said. “The opportunity we have to revitalize the airport after the pandemic has taken a real financial hit over the past 18 months, but it would allow them to see a lot of this trip come back. “

Commissioners Steve Dershem and Mark Higgins discussed the opportunity to help attract and retain business.

“I think one of the real benefits of this is that you’re going to start to see a lot more interest from the Fortune 500 companies who really want to have a presence here in Center County,” Dershem said. “This will give them the opportunity to have the transportation base they need for their business models.

“One of the things that is continually being discussed is that when businesses see Center County as a landing place for new operations, it’s our apparent lack of connectivity, especially with a major hub like Charlotte. This will add another element to this conversation.

Higgins said a new route to a major hub would also help businesses that started and grew in Center County.

“Even for businesses here already, we have more and more startups and entrepreneurial companies that are not just dozens of people anymore,” Higgins said. “They are now a few hundred people. This includes managers, salespeople, customers, suppliers who would all prefer to get to the very conveniently located airport and get to their customer or supplier in 10 or 15 minutes.

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