MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Officials from the City of Morgantown are looking to try to address the low number of enplanements at the Morgantown Municipal Airport.

Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws announced that the city and carrier Southern Airways are in the process of beginning to subsidize flight costs in order to increase the number of passengers flying out of the Morgantown Municipal Airport. Haws reported to Morgantown City Councilors that the airport is on pace to hit about 8,000 enplanements in 2024, well below the 10,000 enplanement mark to receive federal funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. This would also result in 12 consecutive years of decreasing enplanements, an issue Haws feels needs to be addressed.

“I don’t think there’s any secret that we’ve been low for quite a few years,” said Haws. “This year, if we continue at the current trend, we’ll be at 8,000 (enplanements),” he said.

According to Haws, if the Morgantown Municipal Airport doesn’t reach 10,000 enplanements, they will miss out on $1 million in funding as part of the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP). To potentially work towards improving those numbers as we reach the halfway point of 2024, Haws told councilors that Southern Airways has discussed potential promotional programs to increase enplanements, as well as Airport Director Jonathan Vrabel discussing potential city-funded subsidies that would be given to residents looking to travel. Those proposals are expected to be presented in front of the council in the coming months.

“If we were to hit 10,000 enplanements this year, that would be a net increase of FAA contributions to the city of $800,000,” said Haws. “We feel, as an administration, working with our airport director, that enplanement number is absolutely critical to the airport,” he said.

If those funds are lost, Haws expects work such as the Airport Runway Extension Project to be negatively affected as a result of it. This is due to the use of AIP funds being predominantly used for the over $60 million runway project. Haws also stated that if enplanements fall below the 10,000 threshold, then the AIP allocation would be cut by 80 percent, an issue that he feels needs to be addressed in a timely manner.

“The airport manager, along with a few other folks, are working on a proposal that eventually will be brought to the city council,” said Haws. “Something that proposes that the city provide and incentive, maybe in the form of very reasonable rates,” he said.

As proposals are getting formalized for Morgantown City Council to consider, Haws also strongly advises that the council should strongly consider any subsidy program to help enplanement numbers by the end of the year. Not only due to a potential million dollar loss in federal funding, but also the resulting delay of economic development projects that are needed to bring more residents into the area. As the issue slowly comes to a head, Haws urges city officials to keep the airport on their radar.

“It is impossible to be productive in today’s world and stay where we’re at,” said Haws. “I feel very strongly that we need to move forward and increase, not only the enplanements, but the speed in which we are attempting to extend the runway,” he said.


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