BANGOR, Maine — A Tulsa, Okla.-based company has decided to keep its military charter flights at Bangor International Airport after a brief trial of sending some of those flights to Portsmouth International Airport in New Hampshire.
According to officials in New Hampshire, Omni Air International indicated just last month that it was prepared to send a number of flights to Portsmouth in light of the airport’s move to waive some of its fees.
Omni Air abruptly changed its mind this week for unspecified reasons, according to David Mullen, executive director of Pease Development Authority, which manages the Portsmouth airport.
Trisha Frank, senior director of governmental affairs for Omni Air, would not comment about her company’s business decisions.
“Because of the nature of our flights, we’re really not allowed to give out information,” she said Thursday.
BIA Director Rebecca Hupp was not surprised by Omni’s decision.
“We have known they would continue to operate at BIA, but it was not our position to comment on discussions with our customers,” she said.
Hupp said BIA lost only two or three military flights to Portsmouth in the last couple of weeks.
Another charter company that plans to take advantage of the Portsmouth airport’s offer to waive fees, World Air, landed its first New Hampshire flight on Wednesday. Officials in Portsmouth believe World Air will send about 15 flights per month, at least for the time being.
Hupp, however, doesn’t believe the company will stick with Portsmouth for long.
“World Air has been a valued customer for the last six years and has used BIA almost exclusively,” she said. “We have superior infrastructure, superior equipment and better trained personnel and staff [than Portsmouth].”
The third primary charter company that uses BIA is North American Airlines. Hupp said she has talked with officials there and has received assurance that the company plans to continue its relationship with Bangor.
Frank explained that Omni, like other companies, has specified contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense to coordinate military flights, but she said the company can decide where to land planes for refueling or technical stops.
Portsmouth airport officials agreed last month to suspend some fees in an effort to boost business. Under the agreement, landing and fuel flowage fees for military charters would be 100 percent suspended through March 31, 2010. The airport would then offer a 50 percent reduction in fees through June 21.
Portsmouth, which has almost no commercial service, relies heavily on military flights, and the airport is under pressure to reach a passenger plateau of 10,000 by year’s end or it will risk losing $850,000 in federal funds.
Hupp said she understands financial concerns, but she also believes companies get what they pay for.
“While Portsmouth might be offering services for free, it’s not free to provide services,” she said. “We have a responsibility to cover our costs and not pass them on to other customers or to taxpayers.”