Loss of American Airlines service to area could spell economic problems

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HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — 24 hours after American Airlines announced it will suspend service to Huntington’s Tri-State Airport in October, local and federal officials are trying to help figure out the next steps.

They say the suspension will not just inconvenience travelers—but could have long-term impacts on economic growth in the region.

Right now, only American and Allegiant Airlines fly regularly out of Tri-State, and only American Airlines offers connecting flights to other parts of the country—and world.

Without that connection, some worry the areas economy will be disconnected from potential growth.

“I would hate to even think what would happen if it didn’t come back at all, because that would be a crucial hit for us.” 

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau

The shocking news came yesterday to the Huntington Tri-State Airport, and was a shock to many.

“American notified me the other night that they have decided to suspend service here at Huntington Tri-State Airport from October 7th through November 3rd.” 

Brent Brown, airport director, Huntington Tri-State Airport

The temporary suspension leaves the airport with only one carrie: Allegiant—and it doesn’t offer the options American does.

“2019 we had a very good year, our numbers were the best they’ve been in a long time, and so we anticipated another strong year for 2020. And then when the pandemic hit, you know, it really hit us hard.” 

Brent Brown, airport director, Huntington Tri-State Airport

Brown says the airport can sustain the loss of American Airlines—and it’s revenue—for those four weeks. He hopes it won’t go beyond that.

With an annual economic impact on the local economy of $100 million dollars a year, anything affecting the airport is cause for concern.

“It plays a very strong economic development in our community. For one thing, if we’re trying to plan meetings and conventions, which brings people from further away and they’re looking for that ability to be able to fly in, it becomes very important.” 

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau

So much so, government officials here in West Virginia have even issued statements in support of the airport’s future with American Airlines.

Mayor Steve Williams says he is not pleased with the suspension, and that this “underscores the importance for congress to act swiftly for an extension that will help the industry.”

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVa) issued a similar statement, talking about the need for congress to quickly approve an extension of the Payroll Support Program (PSP). Manchin says the CEO of American Airlines committed to him that “they will continue the flight to Huntington Tri-State Airport “provided the Payroll Support Program is passed.”

“One of the good things is, whenever something like this happens, our legislators really react quickly and often, effectively, so it’s good that we have them on our side in supporting that.” 

Tyson Compton, president, Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau

It was largely that congressional delegation which fought off plans by the F-A-A to close night operations of the airport’s control tower earlier this year.

Local officials hope they can be just as effective now.

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