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Airport Authority seeking to attract commercial airline service to Jetport

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

To provide better access to the nation’s air transportation system, the Millington Municipal Airport Authority wants a commercial airline to initiate service out of the Regional Jetport.
During a presentation at the Aug. 11 meeting of the Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen,
Jetport Manager Roy Remington said that is one of the Authority’s “main missions,” along with growing Millington’s industrial tax base.
Remington noted that, earlier this year, the Authority commissioned an air-service consultant to conduct a study of all the “passenger ticket metrics” in and out of the Memphis Metro area.
He said the findings indicate that approximately 25 percent of all the area’s “originating passengers” actually begin their trips by driving to the Nashville International Airport.
“As anybody who’s lived here knows,” he said, “to buy a ticket out of Memphis is prohibitively expensive. The study defined that to be 33 percent higher than what passengers would pay for the equivalent out of the Nashville market.”
Because the study’s findings were “very useful,” Remington said the Authority has moved forward with the “recruitment phase” of its plan. It has scheduled meetings at the end of this month with representatives of four airlines.
The Jetport manager acknowledged that “quite a bit of startup cost” is typically required for an airline to enter a new market such as Millington.
“Normally, an airline will spend around $50,000 in blanket marketing efforts,” he noted. “This includes radio and TV spots and billboards to get the word out that you can fly from Millington to Florida for your family vacation.”
He said the airline then usually has $1,000 a year in “ground handling fees.” These are normally “above- and below-wing services” that include baggage on-load and off-load, cleaning and fueling the airplanes, as well as “marshaling” and turning them around after they arrive.
Remington noted that, in July, the Authority applied for funding from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to help attract an airline to initiate service at the Jetport.
He said TDOT’s Bureau of Analytics has a program that helps rural communities offset some of an airline’s startup costs. That makes it “more attractive” for the airline to begin service in a place like Millington vs. going to Memphis International Airport.
“We applied for $250,000,” he said. “And typically, what they like to see is around a 15-percent local match for those funds.”
Because this is more of a “community-driven” program, Remington said the Authority is not allowed to participate financially in meeting that local match. So, it has “partnered” with Charles Gulotta, executive director of the Millington Industrial Development Board and Millington Area Chamber of Commerce, to help find the funds.
If it is appropriate, Remington said, the Authority will continue working closely with Millington Finance Director John Trusty and Interim City Manager Chris Dorsey to find other ways to “bring more parties to the table” in this initiative.
“We probably won’t know the outcome of our application for another two months,” he concluded. “But suffice it to say we’re excited about the opportunity. And we think that, if we are successful, it gives us an edge in our meetings with the airlines.”

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