Daily flights from Fort Wayne to Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina, were announced Monday in a regional economic effort to connect directly with the East Coast.
The US Airways Express flights will begin Oct. 2, twice daily to Philadelphia and once daily to Charlotte. City and county officials and regional partners who pushed for the flights described the move as needed for area economic development.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said the flights also position the city as a destination. In March, the Fort Wayne City Council kicked in up to $600,000 to help induce an airline to offer daily flights to an East Coast travel hub.
Monday’s announcement was made by the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. Representatives from each said bringing the routes to Fort Wayne International Airport was a joint effort.
What a great announcement, Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters told those gathered at Grand Wayne Center. We are going places in this community Welcome to everyone in Philadelphia and Charlotte, North Carolina, to Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Former City Councilman Tim Pape, among those pushing the move, said while other communities are losing flights and therefore connections to outside business, Fort Wayne’s gaining two new destinations is a major achievement.
This is about our future, he said. This is about bringing jobs to northeast Indiana.
For Lincoln National Corp., founded in Fort Wayne in 1905 and with offices here, the new service provides direct access to its headquarters in Radnor, a Philadelphia suburb.
Today’s announcement is great news for the city of Fort Wayne, Nancy Jordan, Lincoln senior vice president for individual annuity operations, said in a written statement.
The expansion will assist with business development, attract additional events to our city and increase travel options for Fort Wayne residents. It will also enhance our operation in the area, by making it easier for our employees and business partners on the East Coast and in North Carolina to travel into and out of Fort Wayne.
The city’s $600,000 over two years is to help create a minimum revenue guarantee for whichever airline began operating daily flights to an East Coast hub.
If the route was at first unprofitable, the minimum revenue guarantee would ensure the airline did not lose money. The minimum revenue guarantee is part of a $2.5 million incentive package built around a $600,000 federal grant.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and the Airport Authority are contributing $500,000 toward the package, Allen County is contributing $150,000, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered $100,000 and the Regional Opportunities Council $50,000.
Airport Authority Executive Director Scott Hinderman told the City Council in March that if flights are full, the minimum revenue guarantee will not be needed.
The city initially planned to pay its share with Legacy Fund money, funds generated from the lease and sale of the city’s old electric utility. When the council balked, a compromise was reached to use only half from Legacy and half from county economic development income taxes.
Several speakers Monday encouraged residents to use the new air service.
In a written statement, the Airport Authority said, The success of the routes lies in the hands of northeast Indiana consumers. It is a use-or-lose philosophy.
To add a festive touch to Monday’s announcement, Hinderman brought forward a man dressed in Revolutionary War garb carrying a ledger and asked the crowd to sign a pledge to book flights to the new destinations.
Sherry Slater of the Journal Gazette contributed to this story.