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Published: Thursday, 6/26/2003

Talks under way to entice carrier to Toledo airport


Less than two months after one carrier returned to Toledo Express Airport, the airport's overseers confirm that they're negotiating to land another - perhaps by the end of summer.

The board of directors of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which runs the airport, is expected to decide today whether it should set aside $225,000 for an advertising campaign for the airline.

Port authority officials would not name the airline or offer many details of its potential service.

Board member Tom Schlachter said the “small” airline would fly to a “resort area” - potentially starting service in “the next few months.”

The airline's officials “don't want it announced yet,” Mr. Schlachter said. “It's not a done deal.”

Mr. Schlachter's finance committee approved a recommendation this month of the measure by the board's airport committee.

The full board today will vote on the measure, which would approve spending the cash only if the airline agreed to come to Toledo Express. The money would match cash to be spent by the airline to promote a new Toledo route.

If the airline decided to operate out of Toledo Express, it would be the second one this year to come to an airport that is in the midst of a major terminal makeover in its quest to woo passengers.

The makeover has coincided with soaring, then slumping, passenger levels - much of it attributed to the 11/2-year run of the popular discount airline AirTran Airways.

Since AirTran left in April, 2002, airport officials have tried to keep fares low by adding ATA Connection, a discount airline that flies smaller planes out of Chicago. Continental Airlines also restored commuter service last month to Cleveland.

Still, the airport's passenger traffic in May was nearly 9 percent less than in May, 2002 - the first post-AirTran comparison available.

The negotiations with the latest carrier were first mentioned in the minutes of the finance committee meeting, which were publicly released yesterday.

Jerry Chabler, a port board member who is chairman of the board's airport committee, was angered that the minutes offered such details, saying they should have been withheld for announcement by the airport director or port authority president.

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