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KIWI PRESIDENT HOPES TO BEGIN FALLS FLIGHTS IN 60 TO 90 DAYS

The president and chief executive officer of Kiwi International Air Lines said Tuesday he hopes to make an announcement in two or three weeks on beginning service to Niagara Falls International Airport.

Jerry Murphy said the actual flights would begin in 60 to 90 days.

That hinges on final approval of a $550,000 loan to Kiwi from Niagara County through its Industrial Development Agency.

"The county will not be releasing any funds until the final package is reviewed and approved by the County Legislature," Legislature Chairman Sean J. O'Connor, D-Niagara Falls, said Tuesday.

Murphy said no incentive packages were sought from Boston or Tampa, two cities that he announced Tuesday will be added to the Kiwi service schedule. Boston's Logan Airport is one of the country's busiest, and Tampa is one of the fastest-growing air-travel destinations.

Kiwi will connect Boston with Newark, N.J., and West Palm Beach, Fla., as of Oct. 20. Tampa will be served from Newark, Chicago, and Atlanta, starting Nov. 6. Walk-up fares will range from $139 to $199.

As for Niagara Falls, "we do not have firm (prices)," Murphy said, although he reiterated his statement to the County Legislature that one-way walk-up fares to Newark and Chicago will be $99 to $139. Discounts will be available for advance sales.

"I am very, very pleased to hear they've expanded," said John R. Simon, executive director of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. "It gives us more (potential) destinations. It enhances our ability to sell tickets."

But Charles P. Steiner, president of the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, said that as of Tuesday, no deposits had been made into an escrow account set up to contain local businesses' advance payments for Kiwi tickets.

"That doesn't mean there's no interest," Steiner said. "I'm very confident that we're going to have the opportunity to bring forward the Kiwi story. . . . We have all it takes to be successful here."

But Simon said, "it concerns me because of the requirement in the contract the County Legislature approved." That document specified that the $550,000 the development agency is to lend Kiwi will not be released unless 300 books of 10 one-way advance fares are sold.

Steiner said Kiwi asked for a minimum of $250,000 in advance sales.

"When we look at a business market, we naturally try to get local support," Murphy said. "People say, 'We will support you.' We go in and spend a great deal of money to set up service, and then they don't support you."

"We've been calling businesses and setting up appointments," Steiner said.

Twelve appointments, spread out over a three-week period, have been made so far, he said, all of them with Niagara or Erie county companies.

Fred Caso, the Chamber's vice president, said the actual selling is to be done by Michael Palumbo, a local Kiwi representative. "We are setting up meetings with major corporate travelers who have a history of flying to those cities, Newark and Chicago," Caso said.

Steiner said the Chamber's efforts aim to organize business sales, but Murphy said Kiwi is talking actively with Casino Niagara about marketing efforts. He said the casino in Niagara Falls, Ont., "is trying to add something more than a 'drive' market."

Simon said the full package will take three to five days to review, once it is obtained from Kiwi.

The financial documents "are being sent up," Murphy said.

Simon said the Small Business Development Center at Niagara County Community College will help review the Kiwi documents.

The county is demanding a personal guarantee for the $550,000 loan.

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