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Published: Thursday, 10/5/2006

City officials urged to fly Express

The city of Toledo should renew its commitment to using Toledo Express Airport over Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport for official travel, a council committee agreed yesterday.

The economic development panel agreed informally to recommend that the full council approve a resolution calling on city officials, including the mayor, to give preference to the city-owned airport when planning trips.

Paul Toth, airport director for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which operates the airport on a $1 a year lease from the city, said the "leakage" of passengers to Detroit costs the community as much as $100 million a year.

The issue arose after Councilman Frank Szollosi proposed an ordinance last month requiring Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to use Toledo for official travel, even if it costs more.

The mayor used Detroit when he went to New York City in June to represent Toledo in meetings with bond rating officials and to attend an education conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in April.

Mr. Szollosi dropped his ordinance yesterday when it was discovered that the city has a written policy, dating to 1981, requiring official travel to go through the local airport, unless deemed too inconvenient or costly. The policy was amended in 2004 to require travel from Toledo Express, "with few exceptions," council's proposed resolution says. Councilman George Sarantou authored the nonbinding resolution.

A spokesman for the mayor said he used Detroit because it afforded a cheaper, more direct flight, rather than having to make a connection in Cincinnati or Atlanta.

The resolution calls on the mayor to "strictly enforce" the policy and on City Council to adopt the same policy.

Mr. Finkbeiner is a former member of the port authority board of directors, which has launched a "Buy Local, Fly Local" campaign to get the public to consider flying out of Toledo Express.

Mr. Szollosi also said he wants the regional lobbying consortium in Washington, to which the city pays $40,000 a year, to collaborate with other medium-sized cities to get the Federal Aviation Administration to revise policies that make it difficult for such cities to compete for airlines.

Toledo Express has received a $400,000 grant to help recruit a nonstop passenger carrier between Toledo and New York City. Mr. Toth said the New York market accounts for about 90 percent of local travelers who are using Detroit rather than Toledo Express.



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