VIENNA - Potential passengers would spend $500,000 on daily flights at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, they have vowed so far, and airport officials are hoping that's just the beginning.
An attempt to gain pledges for the amount of business regularly scheduled daily flights would generate out of Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport has been ongoing for about two weeks now.
Organizers of the initiative to secure non-binding pledges from business travelers and other passengers are hoping to reach $5 million in pledges to send a message to potential airlines that the community will support the daily air service.
''The non-binding pledges are basically saying if we had passenger service here, we would use it here,'' Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport Director of Aviation Dan Dickten said. He said he is confident there will be daily connecting service operating from the Vienna airport soon.
Primarily, he said the airport is hoping to attract airlines that could provide daily service to Washington, Chicago or Detroit.
Connections from Youngstown to those cities would likely mean service with United, Delta or USAirways.
Dickten and Tony Paglia, Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber Vice President of Government and Media Affairs, also pointed out that ease of transportation also will assist in ongoing development of the natural gas drilling industry locally.
''That would certainly help them (oil and natural gas companies) and help us in attracting them,'' Paglia said. ''They don't necessarily have to have direct flights. If they can get to an airport that would connect to Houston or wherever, that would certainly help them.''
The airport has been working to re-establish regularly scheduled commercial air service here. It last operated in 2003 to a hub of a major U.S. airline. The community received a $780,000 grant from the Department of Transportation to be used as an Airline Revenue Guarantee. Planners hope the grant, along with the ''travel bank'' pledges will help lure a major airline here.
In a similar initiative, the St. Cloud, Minn., Regional Airport last year raised $6.2 million in pledges to help lure American Eagle daily air service to the Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
Gary Wakeford, a local business executive and member of the airport's community support group, "YNGAir Partners" is helping to promote the drive, and has asked members of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber for their support of the Travel Bank initiative.
"Having a full service airport that provides the necessary gateway in a time and cost-efficient manner is a critical piece of the puzzle to growing and expanding the business base," Wakeford said.