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Cancelled flights frustrate Wood County officials

WILLIAMSTOWN, W.Va. — With two dozen flights canceled in March, service from Silver Airways is getting worse instead of better, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Manager Jeff McDougle said Tuesday.

During Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting, McDougle told members of the Wood County Airport Authority that 30 percent of Silver’s scheduled flights from the local airport to Washington, D.C., never happened.

“So instead of having three flights a day, we’ve (essentially) been having two flights a day,” he said.

Eleven of the cancellations were weather-related, McDougle said. Nine flights were called off due to mechanical issues and four were lost to operational matters, which could include a pilot having too many hours or a flight lacking enough crew members.

That’s up from 15 cancellations in February. And April hasn’t started off well, McDougle noted, with the first weekday flight having not taken off for the last week-and-a-half.

Wood County Commissioner Bob Tebay, a member of the authority, asked what passengers are doing when their flights are canceled. McDougle said they normally are rescheduled for the second flight, but on Monday, that one didn’t go either. From there, they look to a different airport or mode of transportation, he said.

“They’re either going to Charleston or Columbus, or Hertz becomes a benefactor,” McDougle said.

“And unfortunately, they don’t come back,” said authority Vice President John Pfalzgraf.

The airport saw 311 enplanements in March, a decrease of 152 from the same month last year. For the year so far, the airport is down 331 enplanements.

McDougle said other West Virginia airports are having similar struggles with Silver.

“When’s their bid up?” authority member Terry Moore asked, referencing Silver’s status as the airport’s carrier under federal Essential Air Service.

“We’re in the first year,” McDougle answered. The current arrangement lasts through September 2016.

A Silver representative did not return messages seeking comment.

The lack of morning flights has led Sean Bradley, owner of the new Runway Cafe at the airport, to elect not to open the coffee shop in the morning, McDougle said. But otherwise, the restaurant has been doing well in its first month of operation, he said.

“He’s happy with what’s going on,” McDougle said. “He’s getting ready to hire some employees.”

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