Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Eppley managers protected themselves from airline bankruptcies when they negotiated month to month leases with Northwest and Mesaba(Northwest airlink); demand for landing and gate leases is strong. Carrier's bankruptcy doesn't worry Eppley WORLD-HERALD The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by a regional carrier for the also-bankrupt Northwest Airlines isn't expected to affect service at Eppley Airfield.Mesaba Airlines, which flies under the Northwest Airlink name, filed for bankruptcy last week. Pinnacle Airlines also provides regional flights for Northwest."I would expect (Mesaba) to continue services, as the other carriers have," said Don Smithey, executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority. He briefed the authority's board members during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday. "Bankruptcy seems to be just part of the business plan anymore," Smithey said of the latest filing in the troubled airline industry. Smithey said the authority's finances are not strained by the bankruptcies. Airlines are allowed only month-to-month leases on Eppley ticket counters and gates, and the authority keeps balances owed low, Smithey said. So an airline entering bankruptcy doesn't have a large debt to Eppley. Mesaba's balance, for instance, is about $30,000 in landing fees. After a bankruptcy filing, an airline must remain current on its rent or the authority can terminate the lease, Smithey said. "Everyone is paying their bills," he said. "We don't have a problem." If a bankrupt airline were to dissolve, Smithey said, another airline likely would take its place because demand is strong. "The market is strong enough to support larger planes" than the 70-seat regional jets that Mesaba uses, he said. American Airlines, in fact, has added another Omaha-Chicago flight, this one using a 150-seat MD-80 jet. The airline plans to use another MD-80 on Omaha-Chicago flights beginning Oct. 30. Smithey said he did not know yet whether that flight would be an addition to American's schedule or would replace a flight that now uses a regional jet. Board member Pat McNeil noted the movement by airlines away from regional jets. "Two years ago, the trend was the RJ's," he said. "That didn't last long." Smithey said airlines are responding to demand. "People do appreciate the larger airplanes," he said. A member of the Huron (S.D.) Airport board attended Tuesday's meeting. Larry Picek and his wife, Beth, flew Tuesday from Huron to Omaha on Mesa Airlines to pick up a car in Omaha they were buying. Picek said the commercial air service is important to Huron's business development, and Eppley's low-fare carriers are a draw for passengers from eastern South Dakota.
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