Metro Airport has been awarded a $340,000 federal grant to help secure non-stop service between Baton Rouge and Washington, D.C., airport commissioners were told at a meeting Tuesday.
Jim Caldwell, the airport’s marketing and air service development manager, said after the meeting that the award marks the first time Baton Rouge has been approved for that specific type of grant.
He said the federal funds, combined with $68,000 in local matching funds, can be used to help offset some of an air carrier’s expenses in launching a new non-stop service to Washington.
For example, Caldwell said, the funds can be used to cover landing fees, advertising or other costs.
“The funds are available subject to an airline starting the route,” Caldwell said. “We have three years to secure the service.”
The grant award letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation said that Baton Rouge was one of 19 cities around the country awarded a grant under the program.
The letter said Baton Rouge was “selected as a first-time grantee because the community demonstrated the need to reduce leakage to New Orleans by obtaining eastbound service to Washington.”
Caldwell, who prepared and submitted the grant application, said Washington, D.C., is the top metro market destination for travelers that does not currently have non-stop service.
He said Dallas and Atlanta rank as the first and second destinations for travelers from Baton Rouge but there are several non-stop flights daily to airports in those cities.
Caldwell said he is hopeful the grant will provide an incentive for US Airways to start a non-stop flight to Washington-Reagan airport, or United/Continental to offer a non-stop flight to Washing-Dulles airport.
STRATEGIC PLAN: In other business, the airport commission listened to a presentation by Ryan Gremillion, representative of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, on the proposed scope of a strategic master plan to guide the airport’s development.
Airport officials have committed to pay up to $200,000 for a study that Gremillion said could cost between $350,000 and $500,000.
The remaining funding is being sought from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, Louisiana Economic Development and other sources, Gremillion told commissioners.
Commissioner Dalton Honore said the airport has had many studies done over the years but has little concrete to show for them because there is no money to carry out the plans.
“We do study after study and at the end of the day we’re still standing in one spot,” Honore said.
Metro Airport Aviation Director Anthony Marino said the scope of the proposed study Gremillion outlined was thorough, but agreed that finding the money to actually put plans into action has been a problem.
“We could wallpaper the entire town with studies,” Marino said. “Implementation is the problem. Nobody wants to talk about how you’re going to pay for it.”