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Published: Wednesday, 10/10/2001

Invest in AirTran, mayor urges firms

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner joined the local AirTran Airways bandwagon yesterday, urging Toledo businesses to participate in a travel bank promoting the discount carrier or risk a return to higher airfares if the airline yanks its Toledo flights.

“Now it's time to use it or lose it,” Mr. Finkbeiner said during a news conference. “Don't complain if we lose it and you haven't used it.”

Mark V'Soske, president of the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, said meetings to explain the travel bank system will be offered five times daily, for three days beginning today, at the chamber's downtown headquarters.

The meetings will be at 7:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 1, 2:30, and 4 p.m. each day.

The chamber has set a $2 million goal for the program, under which businesses can commit funds to an account to be tapped for ticket purchases using specially issued debit cards.

“We're not asking for a contribution or a gift,” Mr. V'Soske said. “Take a look at your ... travel plans, and use AirTran where you can.”

During a Lucas County commissioners meeting yesterday, commission President Sandy Isenberg directed county employees to book official travel on AirTran whenever “reasonable and feasible.”

“I've flown AirTran-and we all know how picky I am - and they weren't bad,” Ms. Isenberg said. “In fact, they were pretty good.”

John Zeitler, director of the county's office of budget and management, said county employees spend more than $100,000 a year to fly for business.

AirTran's discount fares have been credited for a surge of air travel through Toledo Express Airport this year. But airline officials have warned since August that the mix of travelers have included too few business passengers, who generally book on shorter notice and pay higher fares.

While denying it is an absolute deadline, AirTran has said it can't guarantee Toledo service will continue past Oct. 31 unless the travel bank generates positive results.

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