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Tri-State Airport continues to face challenging climate

Dec. 14, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Huntington Tri-State Airport had its monthly board meeting before hosting its annual holiday celebration Thursday.

Board members and guests got an update on progress at the airport over the past year, which has included the completion of a runway rehabilitation project, the addition of a new de-ice truck, the beginnings of a $1 million terminal renovation project and more.

The year brought challenges as well. Delta stopped its service out of Huntington last spring and finding an airline to fill the void has been no small task, said Jerry Brienza, the airport's executive director.

"The industry is changing," Brienza said. "We're not just competing against airports our size."

Huntington Tri-State Airport is now competing with the likes of Cincinnati and other such markets for airlines, he said, and the larger airports are able to offer larger incentive packages.

"We rely on customer service and what we can do that other airports can't," Brienza said.

He told the board that he recently had a three-hour meeting with a potential airline that was very interactive, rather than him making a presentation, and that's it.

"It seemed positive," he said. "I think we've set up a pretty aggressive incentive program."

Incentives are usually in-kind services, such as ground-handling services, waivers and discounts on rental fees for the first couple months and marketing incentives.

"They're going to look at our numbers, and hopefully we'll hear back within a few weeks," Brienza said.

Bill Dingus, a member of the airport authority's budget committee, said it seems that Delta's departure has so far not been as devastating as it could have been. U.S. Air has really stepped up and picked up some of that business, and the airport should fare reasonably well for the start of 2013, he said.

"It's a fair budget -- one we can live within," he said.

Excess revenue is down about $69,000 from 2011 for the fiscal year to date, which began July 1, said Finance Director Don Wiseman.

Another blow to the airport in 2012 was a kitchen fire that destroyed its restaurant. Brienza thanked the Tudor's Biscuit World and Gino's chain, which stepped up to occupy the space and operate restaurants there. Tudor's opened last week and will be open in the mornings and early afternoons, and Gino's Pub is expected to open within the next couple weeks. Gino's will open for lunch and be open throughout the evenings.