A high-level NFTA delegation was to make a pitch in Dallas today to Southwest Airlines, the big enchilada of budget airlines.
The prize they seek for Western New York is America's most hotly pursued airline, one that draws suitors from more than 100 cities each year.
"We not only bring in a lot of passengers to Southwest Airline, but increase traffic to the entire airport," said Ginger Hardage, Southwest vice president of public relations.
Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Chairman Robert D. Gioia, Commissioner Luiz F. Kahl and Executive Director Richard T. Swist were expected to have one hour to make the region's case with airline schedulers when they visit Southwest's headquarters.
The officials planned to present statistics they hope will convince Southwest that Buffalo is at the center of a potentially lucrative market of 8 million people.
"This is a Niagara Region that spills into Canada and within a driving distance that can attract people from Toronto, Rochester, Erie, Pa. and farther," Gioia said.
Gioia said the NFTA expects this will be the first of many visits.
The idea that people will drive 100 miles to buy a cheap plane ticket is the business cornerstone of Southwest, a 26-year-old airline noted for low fares. It began as an inter-Texas shuttle and now serves 51 cities in 25 states.
Cleveland is the closest city to Buffalo served by Southwest.