Saturday, January 2, 2016

Modesto flights remain in holding pattern

The city’s efforts to bring commercial flights back to Modesto Airport remain in a holding pattern.

Airport Manager Mark Germanowski said it could take a year or two for a commercial carrier to start service. The airport has been without commercial flights since June 2014, when SkyWest Airlines stopped its daily flights between Modesto and San Francisco, citing “poor performance in the market.”

This is the first time since the 1980s that Modesto has not had commercial passenger service, according to Bee archives.

Germanowski gave the same estimate for commercial service resuming six months ago. But he said Modesto continues to talk with American Airlines. “They are not saying they don’t want to come here,” he said. “They want more information.”

The airline has declined to comment on whether it is talking with Modesto.

More information could come from a consultant’s study that would gauge the viability of commercial service in the Modesto area. Germanowski said he is researching consultants. He said if the city goes ahead with a study, it could take four to six months and cost $20,000 to $35,000.

Modesto is facing the same head winds buffeting other regional airports trying to land commercial flights – a pilot shortage and the major carriers concentrating their flights at larger airports, such as Los Angeles International Airport.

The city has focused its efforts on getting flights between Modesto and Los Angeles because city officials say Southern California was the No. 1 destination for passengers flying out of Modesto.

Germanowski said the Federal Aviation Administration could reduce the annual grant it provides the airport for capital projects from $1 million to $150,000 because the airport no longer has commercial flights. He said the airport should learn in the coming months whether that happens. But he said the FAA would restore the grant to $1 million if commercial flights resume, and the airport can compete for other FAA grants.


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