An added flight from New Haven to Cincinnati might be enough to bolster the foundering Tweed-New Haven Airport.
The Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority recently announced it is negotiating with Delta Airlines for possible regional jet service to Cincinnati, one of the airline’s major hubs, to begin as early as this summer. Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority chairman Lawrence DeNardis said negotiations with Delta have been ongoing for several months.
He said he was discussing the possible service publicly now because the authority is about to begin pressing major institutions and businesses for commitments to provide some sort of initial service or financial guarantee to Delta.
“It will turn out well if we get the corporate commitments that we are seeking,” DeNardis said.
Corporations from which the Authority is seeking commitments include Yale University, Bayer Corporation, General Electric, and United Technologies.
Jet service “is a critical element here,” said Robert Santy, president of the area Regional Growth Partnership and spokesman for Tweed. “Many companies won’t even look at the possibility of locating in an area if there isn’t an airport close by.”
US Airways Express, which is getting ready to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is currently the only commercial carrier at Tweed. The airline eliminated service to Washington, D.C., after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and currently provides only turboprop service from New Haven to Philadelphia.
DeNardis revealed Delta’s interest on the same day that airport staff received word that the Federal Aviation Administration approved Tweed’s controversial new 20-year master plan. The plan calls for expanded service and improvements that eventually would include a longer runway.
The town of East Haven, which borders Tweed, has opposed any expansion beyond current boundaries. This resistance, as well as financial uncertainty, has delayed expansion efforts and caused other airlines to abandon New Haven. Delta or one of its Delta Express contract operators coming into Tweed would represent the first major airline to initiate service since United, United Express and Continental Express. These three discontinued service to New Haven in the mid-1990s.
Over the past five years, the city and the state have subsidized Tweed at a cost of $5 million, with the state paying $600,000 a year or $3 million of that total. That funding runs out June 30 and it is not clear whether the state will commit money to fund everything in the plan.
DeNardis said he thinks the state will eventually take over Tweed’s operations, but not until Connecticut’s finances improve.
Santy and Airport Manager Rick Lamport said the airport, which served about 26,000 passengers last year, said it only needs about 100,000 passengers to break even and eliminate the need for state funding. During the airport’s peak in the mid-1990s, it served more than 140,000 passengers a year, Santy said.
Bringing Delta on board is expected to help the airport reach that goal.
Antoine Jumelle ’05 of McAlester, Okla., said he looks forward to being able to fly to New Haven from Tulsa, via Cincinnati. Jumelle, like most other Delta patrons, will be able to make connecting flights to New Haven through Delta’s Cincinnati hub.
“Frankly, I think every student stands to save money with a direct flight to New Haven,” Jumelle said. “I for one won’t ever have to waste another $50 on Connecticut Limo again.”