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Incentives planned to boost Fort Wayne flights

March 12, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — The city of Fort Wayne is going to kick in up to $600,000 over two years toward incentives for an airline to offer daily flights to an East Coast travel hub.

Negotiations are underway with United and American airlines for twice-daily flights from Fort Wayne International Airport to either Newark, N.J., or Philadelphia, said Scott Hinderman, the Airport Authority’s executive director.

City Council members voted 8-1 Tuesday night to approve the city’s contribution toward a $2.5 million incentive package, The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel reported. Other entities directing money to the package include Greater Fort Wayne Inc., the Airport Authority and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

The Fort Wayne airport now offers nonstop daily flights to Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Dallas.

Hinderman told City Council members about the need for additional service, showing a map of the United States and the airports that now have flights from Fort Wayne.

“If you look at the map, obviously there’s a hole in the Northeast,” he said.

Payouts from the incentive package, which also includes a $600,000 federal grant, will be reduced if the flights are full.

“If people get on the planes and use the service — if there’s butts in the seats — there won’t be a need to pay,” Hinderman said.

The Fort Wayne airport reported it had nearly 593,000 arriving and departing passengers in 2013, an increase of about 5 percent from the year before.

Councilman Russ Jehl cast the only vote against the city’s contribution, pointing out that the Airport Authority has a cash balance of about $9.5 million for a $26 million annual budget and a robust capital spending plan.

“I’m uncomfortable subsidizing a ... taxing body that has more cash on hand than we do,” Jehl said.

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