Local

Valley flights are expanding once again

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two flights from the Valley, one in Merced and the other from Visalia will soon take off but federal law makers are slated to vote on cutting federal money that helps pay for these flights.

It's a celebration for the City of Visaila and Wyoming based Great Lakes Airlines. New, direct flights were announced Wednesday from Visalia to Los Angeles.

"For the people of the community it's going to be wonderful, for the people of the area it's going to be wonderful," Bob Link said.

Wonderful, the city says because the flights are relatively inexpensive. A trip aboard the small Great Lakes planes would cost anywhere from $59 to $95 one way.

But these flights are partially paid for by federal dollars through what's known as the Essential Air Service-- a program designed to help connect smaller communities to larger ones.

In a special report last year Action News showed that most of these Great Lakes flights were not even close to being full.

At Wednesday's news conference, however, the airline's CEO and the airport manager said they hope that will soon change.

"So today we're connecting Visalia and the greater area to, basically to the world," Chuck Howell said.

If the essential air service is cut by the government, most if not all of the money for these flights would be gone by 2013.

"Personally, I don't think we've reached the point where it's a factor, it's something we're taking serious."

Visalia airport manager Mario Cifuentez tells Action News, whether or not the subsidy is there, the flights, he hopes, will be.

"Are these flights, could they just last those two years? No, that's been our goal all along, we're not a community that wants to exist on the perpetuity of the subsidy. We need to improve our service, we need to grow the service," Cifuentez said.

Last month the senate passed a similar bill, which would reduce the subsidized funding but not eliminate it.

So airport officials just hope you buy in to these new daily flights.

Last month the senate passed a similar bill which would reduce the subsidized funding but not eliminate it.

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Tags:
los angeles, visalia, merced, local, rick montanez
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