by J.R. Brammer
BRIDGEPORT -- Daily jet service to an international airport has industry and government officials optimistic about enticing new businesses, jobs and capital to North Central West Virginia.
Delta Airlines subsidiary Comair announced plans at a Wednesday press conference to begin round-trip service between Benedum Airport in Bridgeport and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on April 11.
"A classy jet service like this opens North Central West Virginia up to a lot more capabilities that world-class industry is always looking for," said Terry Moore, director of training for the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex.
The 50-seat corporate jets will depart Benedum at 6:45 a.m., seven days a week, and return at 8:05 p.m. Tickets will cost $243.
Comair's commercial activity will complement Benedum's existing daily schedule of flights to Pittsburgh and Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. -- routes run by US Airways subsidiary, Air Midwest Inc. which operates 19-seat, twin-propeller planes.
"The expanded options for air travel creates the possibility of greater convenience for customers and business CEOs that will help us to be more competitive in terms of economic development," says Joe Gero, executive director of the Harrison County Development Authority.
Cincinnati is Delta Airlines' second-largest hub (to Atlanta), and also an international airport, with connections to more than 500 daily Delta flights alone.
"That's the most important thing about this deal," says MAAC executive director James Skidmore. "They can connect to anywhere."
The Bridgeport-Cincinnati connection is the latest development for an airport battling the adverse effects of years of decreasing enplanements.
Previously, the airport expanded its runway for jet service. Also, perhaps most importantly, was the fact that the airport is located on the same property as several aviation industry powerhouses.
One of the companies, Bombardier Aerospace (a Canadian aircraft manufacturer), was instrumental in sealing the deal with Comair because since 1997 the Delta Connection carrier has serviced its aircraft at Bombardier's West Virginia Air Center in Bridgeport.
Now comes the question of making West Virginia compatible with Comair, named "Best Managed Regional Airline" by Aviation Week & Space Technology in 1999.
"West Virginia transportation has always been about roads," says Jim Griffith, Benedum manager. But "when a company expands or builds a new site, they want to know how to get their goods and people across the world. Air travel is becoming more and more important."
Staff writer J.R. Brammer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at email@example.com.