Half-million dollar grant to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport

Airport gets grant to attract new airline

SARASOTA - Azzeddine Dakhama describes the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport as 'convenient.'

"It is easy to drive to downtown and to all of the places, and it's not too crowded," he said.

But since AirTran stopped flights from there less than a week ago, 'slow' seems to describe it best.

It is the second time a major airline stopped service from the local airport. Lost flights means lost revenue for the area.

"The county would lose over $100 million of direct spending in our economy because of those flights no longer accessing our market," said Mark Huey the President of the Sarasota Economic Development Council.

But there is hope. Sarasota Bradenton International Airport received a $500,000 federal boost named the Small Community Air Service Development grant.  It covers some of the cost of a new airline's move and guarantees some revenue at start up.

"It would also allow us then to recover 100 percent of the seats we lost with AirTran and it would allow us to grow instead of short the next year," said Rick Piccolo the Airport's Chief Executive.

Piccolo hopes to attract United Airlines which would create a western travel route. Sarasota Bradenton International lost service to the west when Continental stopped flying to Houston.

"To us it shows the market did exist here. We still think that Southwest made a misjudgment but we are moving forward with our new partner," he said.

The airport plans to waive some start-up fees for the new airline and along with additional aid from Manatee and Sarasota Counties, the total amount to land an airline like United would equal $1 million.

"United would be perfect for me because it always flies from Denver," said Dakhama

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