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May 15, 2012 10:10 AM

Local businesses working to bring more flights to TIA

TUCSON- More flights might soon be flying in and out of Tucson International Airport.

The city's business community is partnering with the Tucson Airport Authority to launch a new air incentive program.

The roar of a plane is music to Bill Holmes' ears.

"Nearly nothing impacts commerce here in our region more than comprehensive airline service," Holmes says.
Which is why, the leader of Tucson's Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is bringing together local businesses and the Tucson Airport Authority to create an air incentive program.

"We've got to figure out how we can make it viable for airlines to come here," Holmes says.

He says more flights would attract businesses and also make it easier on the companies already here. He estimates it would take about $500,000 to get the ball rolling. "If we got 100 companies that were able to give $5,000 a year, then we have our $500,000," Holmes says.

"It's a real encouraging sign that they're willing to consider something like this," says Dick Gruentzel, CFO of the Tucson Airport Authority. "It's something that has been done in other cities across the country as well."

The program would be a little different from the one Tucson Airport Authority initiated last October. "They have very specific ways that they can spend that money, to reduce landing fees et cetera," Holmes says.

He says with private funds, the Tucson Airport Authority will have more ways to entice airlines. "Airlines like American, United and Delta, we would love to have non-stop year round flights to the East Coast," Gruentzel says.

The Airport Authority says so far this year passenger traffic at TIA is up about three-percent. It's an increase Holmes hopes to see more of in the future.

"We realize that additional air service is going to help the business community and really everyone in Southern Arizona," Holmes says.

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