GSO isn't the only airport losing flights. Since September 11, MOB has lost one third of its daily flights. Service to ORD and IAD has been cancelled. Service to CVG suspended indefinitely. Service to IAH, MEM, DFW and ATL reduced and or downgraded. Needless to say the people of MOB aren't happy.
Congressman Callahan of AL wants Secy Mineta to force airlines to resume service to cities like MOB because of bailout out money. But can Mineta really force airlines to fly routes? I don't think so.....
Callahan wants Air Service Restored to MOB
WASHINGTON -- In the wake of a plunge in Mobile's passenger service
following last month's terrorist attacks, U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan has asked federal transportation officials to consider requiring airlines to restore some flights in return for receiving taxpayer bailout funds.
"I certainly understand that all communities are being impacted as airlines make unavoidable decisions to reduce air services in response to reduced demand," Callahan, R-Mobile, wrote in an Oct. 12 letter to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. "However, I believe that Mobile may have suffered a disproportionate loss of service."
Under a $15 billion bailout package rushed through Congress shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mineta can require any airline receiving "direct financial assistance" to continue the same flight schedule in place before Sept. 11 for any particular route.
Nationally, carriers have since slashed service by about 20 percent, with Mobile losing one-third of its outgoing flights, according to Callahan. He's not alone. In all, some 30 members of Congress have registered similar concerns about local air service cuts, Transportation Department spokesman Bill Mosley said.
Although the department is preparing a response, its only action thus far has been to mandate 15 days' notice of any significant service cuts. Several aviation officials doubted that Washington is likely to get into the business of setting flight schedules; Callahan spokesman Jo Bonner indicated that the letter's primary purpose is to build a case for Mobile's receiving better air service in the future.
The Transportation Department can play a pivotal role in that process,
thanks to its role in allocating flight slots at some airports. Nor is it unusual for members of Congress to lobby agency officials on behalf of their districts.
"I think we want to go on record to note that we feel that significant
disruption in service has taken place in Mobile," Bonner said. Rather than
force airlines to restore a full flight schedule, he said, "our desire is to
make sure that Mobile not be taken for granted when, hopefully, normal
service resumes, whatever normal is."
Callahan's office provided a copy of the Oct. 12 letter last Friday at the Mobile Register's request.
The last seven weeks have been painful for Mobile Airport Authority officials, who have watched the facility's 27 daily outgoing flights dwindle to 18.
A complete pullout by United Express last month ended nonstop service to Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., as well as to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
Delta, Continental Express and Northwest Airlink have all pared their daily takeoffs from Mobile. Beginning Thursday, Comair plans to indefinitely
suspend nonstop service to Cincinnati.
Another blow came eight days after the Sept. 11 attacks when Orlando-based discount carrier AirTran announced that it would begin service from Pensacola to Atlanta next month, putting it in direct competition with Mobile.
More than local pride and travel convenience are at stake. Flexible air
connections can also play a role in helping to lure new jobs and industry.
The catastrophe triggered a government-ordered shutdown of the air
transportation system that the airlines say cost them billions of dollars. While more-or-less normal service has resumed around the country, the system is running at about 50 percent of capacity.
The federal rescue legislation provides $5 billion in direct relief and $10 billion in loan guarantees to make it easier for the airlines to borrow money.
"I think it's a way of the squeaky wheel getting the grease," said Kevin
Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, a Pennsylvania lobbying organization that represents large corporations. The package was designed to compensate airlines for their losses and help them to revamp their operations.
"To fly empty planes is not part of the deal," Mitchell said. "I guess if I were beholden to my constituents, I would do the same thing," he added, in reference to the resumption-of-service provision. "I just don't think it's going to work."
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