Share this article

print logo

TAKEOFF APPEARS DELAYED FOR 2 NEW AIRLINES

Neither of the two new airlines some local officials are hoping might bring scheduled service to Niagara Falls International Airport are ready to do so.

Tom Ronell, president of Trans International Express, a New York City-based carrier, said if his airline comes to Niagara Falls, it won't be until spring.

And Timothy F. Sieber, vice president of marketing for Northern Airlines, a Syracuse-based start-up carrier, said his airline is "optimistic" but uncertain when it will begin.

Both airlines lack Federal Aviation Administration certification to fly the planes they plan to use, but both expect to receive it soon.

County business and tourism leaders are back in the airline recruiting business after Kiwi International Air Lines bowed out of Niagara Falls on Aug. 31.

Trans International was mentioned by county officials for a possible September start-up here. But Ronell said, "We're a little concerned to go into the market at this time of year with no community support. . . . Everybody knows there's a market there in the summer. From where I sit, starting on Nov. 1 isn't such a good idea."

Charles P. Steiner, chairman of the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks that's "solid advice. The marketplace is obviously spring, summer and fall."

Ronell said he would like help with market research. A lack of such data has been cited by some local officials as a factor in Kiwi's failure.

"We like Niagara Falls, we sense there's something there, but we're a little nervous," Ronell said.

Steiner said, "I would strongly encourage this whole effort of looking at what they see is the marketplace . . . and talking to customers and seeing what they're looking for."

Ronell said of local leaders he's talked to, "They're a little reluctant to give us anything after their experience with Kiwi. We're not asking for a handout."

But he said he wants some guarantees of ticket sales from the business community and some concessions on costs at the Niagara Falls airport.

Although Steiner said the Chamber cannot guarantee ticket sales, he said it is willing to reach out to its members and help gauge interest in Trans International, once flight schedules and routes are set.

Ronell said Trans International currently flies six-passenger propeller-driven planes from Kennedy Airport in New York City to Hartford, Conn., and Atlantic City, N.J.

But in about three weeks, Ronell said he expects to receive FAA certification to begin flying 36-passenger turbo-props.

He said Trans International's business plan calls for zeroing in on passengers in "underserved locations," especially those who need to make connections to international flights at Kennedy. As examples, he cited Worcester, Mass., and Elmira.

"We're not going to be a low-fare peanut carrier," Ronell said. "We want to have the international first-class passengers. . . . We don't intend to come into Niagara Falls and be the $79 carrier Kiwi was."

Kiwi tried to make a go of discount service from Niagara Falls to Newark, N.J. But 3 1/2 months with few passengers lead to canceled flights and the reluctance of Niagara and Erie counties to make a planned $550,000 loan to the airline. That induced Kiwi to pull out.

John R. Simon, executive director of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, had little to say about Trans International, but was more expansive when discussing Northern.

Simon said he was "very optimistic" about Northern coming to Niagara Falls and said something might be heard in that direction in the coming week.

But Sieber said, "That's a little overly optimistic, but we are optimistic." He said the airline is trying to close on private financing arrangements and does not yet have a schedule for start-up or a firm list of destinations.

One factor in the delay, he said, is negotiations with New York City-area airports for gate space.

Northern will fly 80-passenger jets to cities in the northeastern United States and perhaps to Chicago, Sieber said.

There are no comments - be the first to comment