The Wichita Falls Aviation Advisory Board met today to discuss cutbacks on the flight schedule at the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport. The airport currently has only four flights a day. And this comes as the Wichita Falls City Council is pushing to spend more money on airport improvements.
American Eagle employees told Newschannel 6 the departing and arriving noon flight will no longer be running by June 9th. That decision will not be finalized until after tonight's meeting, but city leaders told Newschannel 6 about multiple issues that are to blame for the cutbacks.
Wichita Falls Director of Aviation and Transportation John Burrus says fuel costs and extremely low ridership are the main factors for cutting back flight schedules at the airport. He says some planes with 50 or 60 seats are carrying only four to five passengers. Tonight's meeting was an opportunity to look at the flight schedules, and whether they meet traveler demands.
Wichita Falls District 1 Councilor Michael Smith says, "I think American Eagle will lose business over that decision. I hope in their wisdom they'll look at what the traveling public needs to fly out of here, to make connections in Dallas, to go wherever they want to". City Councilor Michael Smith says there is a need for an early flight out of the airport. The earliest flight is 9:30 a.m. He'd like to see a flight at least two hours earlier to accommodate our military and people who come in on business.
Councilor Smith says the city has no say in the scheduling of flights, but they do tell American Eagle their concerns. Wichita Falls Director of Airports Sara Johnson says they also discussed new construction for the Municipal Airport at the meeting. Johnson says they applied to the FAA for federal grant money as well as the approval of even more funds from the city council. Councilor Smith says a new airport could increase air travel in Wichita Falls, a project that likely won't begin for at least three years. Smith says they plan to, "Build a brand new airport terminal building at the current municipal airport site. What's out there is old, antiquated in need of repair; in many instances, not near big enough". The Municipal Airport is awaiting word on up to $6 million in grants from the FAA to approve the runway.
The city council approved an additional $29,000 that weren't budgeted to cover design and engineering for the project earlier this month. The Wichita Falls Aviation Advisory Board will make a final decision on flight schedule changes tonight. However, American Eagle says the noon flight will be discontinued June 9th. We'll let you know what happens.