Boardings down at most W.Va. airports in 2012

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Associated Press

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 10:30 AM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Airline pullouts contributed to a drop in passenger boardings at West Virginia's airports last year.

The exception was at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport in Parkersburg, which saw a 5 percent increase in boardings.

Manager Terry Moore said the airport didn't reach a 2012 goal of 8,000 boardings. Instead, it hit 7,800, up 400 from 2011.

"As long as it's going up, we're pretty happy," Moore said.

Boardings were down about 11 percent at the North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport and at the Morgantown Municipal Airport. Traffic also was down 6 percent at Tri-State Airport near Huntington and about 5 percent at Charleston's Yeager Airport, The State Journal (http://bit.ly/WC4ag5) reported.

Low-cost carrier Colgan Air stopped service in 2012 at airports in Beckley, Bridgeport and Morgantown and was replaced by Silver Airways. AirTran ceased operations at Yeager Airport.

"All the flights that we do have, they're performing very well," said Yeager Airport marketing coordinator Anthony Gilmer.

In 2011, Yeager's passenger traffic was the third-highest in the airport's 65-year history.

Bridgeport's airport underwent a runway extension last year. And interim airport director Richard Rock said Silver Airways is providing more consistent service.

"The product is better," he said. "The planes are an upgrade from previous service."

Morgantown airport director Michael Clow said the airport didn't lose any flight days after Colgan halted service.

"It was that perception that we were going to be without service," Clow said. "People just didn't fly like they were doing before. The end of the year came back pretty well."

Passenger figures for the Greenbrier Valley Airport in Lewisburg and the Raleigh County Memorial Airport in Beckley weren't immediately available. Airport managers didn't immediately return telephone messages Thursday.

Airport managers expressed concern about the future of federal Essential Air Service subsidies now that U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., a stronger supporter of the program, has announced he won't run for re-election in 2014.

"It was a boon to West Virginia airports to have him up there," Moore said. "He was an air service senator. Theoretically, the clout we have from West Virginia will be diminished.

"Hopefully, Essential Air Service doesn't come under the gun again. With the next two years, we've got Sen. Rockefeller to go to bat for us, and hopefully at the end of two years, things will settle down somewhat."

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Information from: The State Journal, http://www.statejournal.com

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