Sunday, May 27, 2018
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New Toledo to Florida flights on port agenda

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority Board of Directors has called a special meeting for today that could lead to new air passenger service at Toledo Express Airport.

Agency representatives offered few details Monday about the meeting's one agenda item, to "consider air service contract at Toledo Express Airport," but spokesman Holly Kemler said the matter is to give agency staff "authorization to negotiate terms" for flights between Toledo and southwest Florida.

Jerry Chabler, chairman of the port board's airport committee, declined to comment beyond stating, "There's nothing signed, sealed, and delivered."

The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. in the third-floor conference room at One Maritime Plaza.

Port officials have sought a successor to DirectAir ever since that carrier abruptly halted operations last winter and then declared bankruptcy. DirectAir had flown seasonal scheduled charter flights between Toledo Express and Punta Gorda, Fla., for several years.

The port authority thought it had a candidate in Vision Airlines, which on June 1 began twice-weekly round trips between Toledo and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Flights were scheduled through October, after which local officials hoped Vision would set up a wintertime service to southwest Florida that would include Toledo.

But Vision pulled the plug on its Toledo route after just four weeks, and later canceled flights between Myrtle Beach and several other cities. Port officials said they were told poor ticket sales were to blame, but they also said Vision did not give the route enough time to develop.

The port authority a $750,000 federal Small Community Air Service grant that it received nearly a year ago to promote route development at Toledo Express. That grant, however, identified Denver as the primary target for service development and listed as potential alternatives Charlotte, Washington-Dulles, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, or Houston — not south Florida.

The plan to hold a special meeting before completing arrangements for a new carrier at Toledo Express is unusual. While the port authority has supported new carriers in the past with marketing assistance and by waiving airport charges such as landing fees, such arrangements were made without specific advance approval from the board.

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