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BIA grant to help add flights to Chicago or DC

Bangor Daily News | BDN
Bangor Daily News | BDN
Passengers board a regional jet at Bangor International Airport on Tuesday, October 26, 2010. Bangor International Airport has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant that could help add service by United Airlines to one of its two major hubs in Chicago or Washington, D.C. or both. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor International Airport has been awarded a $500,000 federal grant that could help add service by United Airlines to a major hub in Washington, D.C., or Chicago.

The award, announced Tuesday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, was one of 19 proposals selected nationwide under his department’s Small Community Air Service Development Program.

Under provisions in the award, the grant can be used to reduce an airline’s risk in entering a new market. Funds also can be used for marketing and advertising to support the service.

“This money will make a difference for Bangor,” LaHood said in a statement. “Local air service is critical to our nation’s communities, both large and small, and these grants will contribute to economic growth while helping to provide better service and more options for air travelers.”

BIA Director Rebecca Hupp said the grant application was successful in large part because of local, state and federal support.

“Regional collaboration and public-private partnerships were an integral component of our proposal,” she said. “This grant will be integral to our efforts to attract additional air service to our region. This is an important step in the multiphase process of recruiting a new air carrier.”

BIA has met with United Airlines on several occasions in the past, and Hupp said her staff would continue to present the business case that the Bangor region can be a viable market.

“This grant does not mean a commitment from United, but it provides some additional incentives,” she said.

City and state officials, along with the Eastern Maine Development Corp., Mobilize Maine and the Bangor Regional Development Alliance, all pledged financial contributions in the grant application. In addition, the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, the Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Maine’s congressional delegation provided letters of support.

“This investment will help Bangor International Airport promote new service, which will greatly benefit the region’s residents and businesses. It will also help promote regional economic growth at a time we really need it,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins issued a joint statement.

“This is terrific news for Maine travelers, who will benefit from expanded, reliable flight service to and from Bangor,” the Republican senators said. “This investment in BIA is critical to Maine’s economy, and will help keep our residents connected to the rest of the country and world.”

BIA last received a Small Community Air Service Development Program grant in 2005. That money was used to promote the introduction of Allegiant’s low-cost service to Sanford, Fla., near Orlando. Since that time, Allegiant has expanded its service to St. Petersburg, Fla., and has added flights.

Hupp said that although grant was awarded in 2005, Allegiant didn’t begin service until 2007.

The latest grant provides what is known as a minimum revenue guarantee for United Airlines to provide air service using regional jet aircraft between BIA and Chicago O’Hare International Airport or Washington Dulles International Airport.

A minimum revenue guarantee is money that is set aside to reduce an airline’s risk in entering a new market. If revenues do not cover operating expenses, the airline will use the funds from the minimum revenue guarantee to make up the difference.

BIA offers year-round nonstop flights to Detroit, New York, Orlando-Sanford, Philadelphia, Tampa-St. Petersburg and seasonal flights to Washington, D.C.

United has not operated at BIA in recent history, according to Hupp.

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