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Published: Friday, 9/5/2008

Wheels up at Express

WITH the final departures by Delta and Continental airlines this past week, Toledo Express Airport has just three passenger carriers left. If city and county leaders and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority don't have a plan to help this key regional transportation asset survive a slumping economy and soaring aviation fuel prices, they should.

Otherwise passenger service out of Toledo could easily fly away for good.

Toledo Express has gone from its heyday of more than 30 flights to just eight departures a day. If Northwest decides to pull its service to Detroit Metro, Toledo would be down to three flights per day.

The Port Authority hopes it can keep its three remaining passenger carriers, Northwest Airlink, American Eagle, and Allegiant, happy with financial incentives, including reduced rent.

Officials insist that even with fuel prices forcing airlines to cut operations, they may eventually be able to attract some passenger airlines back to Toledo.

That's good, but is there a Plan B ready to be implemented to ensure that the airport's survival isn't dependent solely on market forces behind its control? Airport Director Eric Frankl says officials are constantly communicating with different carriers that would be a suitable fit for Toledo, and that's encouraging.

But if Toledo expects to have a thriving regional airport in the near future, with an ample schedule of convenient flight connections for business and leisure travelers, it needs an aggressive plan, coordinated with the private and public sectors, to find new opportunity in the current crisis of scaled-back airline service before local business is down to nothing.

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