A proposal to bring commercial flights back to Reading Regional Airport is still on the table.
At the monthly meeting of the airport authority Tuesday morning, airport director Zackary Tempesco said the airline that had approached him several months ago about the possibility of offering year-round direct flights from the Bern Township airfield to Orlando, Fla., Twice a week remains interested.
“We are still in talks with the prospective airline,” he said.
Tempesco said the airline is gathering information to confirm the routes will be successful. And to help facilitate that research, he is working with Berks County officials to acquire travel data that would show the airport is a viable market opportunity for them.
“I think we are sort of on the short list so we still have to compete with a group of other airports,” he said.
Tempesco has not publicly revealed the name of the airline, stressing the proposal is still in the very early stages of discussion. However, authority members were given details about the proposal in an informational packet in April.
At that April meeting, Tempesco said he wanted the board to know about the proposal because they talk about bringing commercial service back all the time and he has heard from people over the years that they want service as well.
Tempesco said there would be other benefits to offering commercial flights such as increased concession fees and fuel flowage fees, as well as the potential for additional funding from the Federal Aviation Administration. It would also mean the terminal would once again be used for its intended purpose.
But, he warned, the proposal also comes with challenges.
One hurdle is that the airline wants the airport to contribute $ 75,000 to $ 100,000 toward an advertising campaign for the service. Another is that the airline would use a Boeing 737 aircraft, a larger plane than typically operates at the airfield, which means the airport would need to buy or rent additional support apparatus.
“They also want a lot of incentives to come in,” he said at that meeting. “They would like us to waive some of the fees for the first two years, so that would mean the airport would not really make any money off of the deal for at least the first few years. Eventually it would help, but this is more about providing a community service. ”
The airport has not had commercial flight services for more than two decades.
Back in 2000, the airport authority borrowed $ 8 million to renovate the passenger terminal. But right around then, regional and national airlines ended their commercial service to Reading. Before that happened, local residents could park at the airport, catch a small passenger plane to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh and fly to places around the world.
Also at the meeting Tuesday, the authority announced it will hold a special workshop session on July 12 at 8 am to discuss a proposed development venture at the airport that has received pushback from existing operators at the airfield.
Coral Aviation Group has signed an agreement with the authority to build a full service fixed-base operation on 17 acres the company would lease from the authority. James Dastra, president of Coral, has told the authority that he so far has commitments to fill a 50,000-square-foot hangar as well as 25,000 square feet of office space.
But two existing full service fixed-based operators at the airport – Millennium Aviation and Reading Jet Center – are claiming the project will be detrimental to their already stressed financial situations. They have also taken issue with the way the Coral proposal process has progressed without several pertinent documents like an official business plan or a statement of financial stability being available for the public review.
Michael Setley, authority chairman, said Tuesday that the July 12 meeting will be held pending the receipt of financial documents the board has requested from Coral. It is expected the authority will take action on approving or denying the project at that meeting.