Dwindling numbers threaten Shoals airport future - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Dwindling numbers threaten Shoals airport future

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Airport officials expect to receive a non-compliance notice from their subsidy which funds service by Silver Airways. Airport officials expect to receive a non-compliance notice from their subsidy which funds service by Silver Airways.
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COLBERT COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

A drop in passengers at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport could mean the end of commercial flights from the Shoals. Airport officials expect to receive a non-compliance notice from their subsidy which funds service by Silver Airways.

Airport Director Barry Griffith said they have done everything they can think of, from offering free parking to partnering with the Shoals Chamber to buy flights in an effort to fill seats.

"We've had some startup problems with the current airline we have. We've changed reservation systems about twelve months into the program with this particular airline. Some of the network connections with some of the major carriers didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped," said Griffith.

With a rough start, followed by a number of cancellations and delays, Griffith said the service is not meeting the area's demands and it shows in the numbers. In 2010 the airport averaged 17,000 passengers a year. In 2013 the numbers dropped to just 6,600 passengers.

"Passengers might understand if they are delayed or canceled one time, but if that continues to happen they look for other alternatives. Some of our passengers are now choosing to fly out of other airports," said Griffith.

Griffith anticipates a letter from the Department of Transportation indicating they are out of compliance with the Essential Air Service program, the very program that funds their commercial service with Silver Airways.

"I think there's definitely an opportunity for it to provide good, reliable air service. If given a chance to stay in the program, we'll certainly do our best to advertise and market and let people know there is an alternate choice," he said.

Local leaders are hoping to get another chance to stay in the program and contract a new provider. Worst case scenario: the airport could lose their commercial service.

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