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Big changes could mean new routine for Victoria travelers

By Jessica Rodrigo
May 4, 2014 at 12:04 a.m.
Updated May 5, 2014 at 12:05 a.m.


Pack light. There may soon be big changes at Victoria Regional Airport.

Members of the airport commission voted on a recommendation Thursday that would move current commercial air service, Sun Air International, out and welcome Public Charters Inc. by Oct. 1.

Contingent on a decision from the Department of Transportation, travelers could experience a few changes that airport manager Jason Milewski thinks will benefit the community and the county.

Here are some of the biggest changes that travelers might experience if the transportation department awards Public Charters the Alternative Essential Air Service at Victoria Regional Airport:

Destination

Austin and Dallas as destinations offer travelers access to connecting flights to almost anywhere, said Jim Gallagher, owner of Public Charters.

"Austin would be the domestic connection, and Dallas would be the business destination or the hub for international," he said.

Based on credit card data, Milewski said, 300,000 people in the Crossroads fly a year. Ten percent of those travelers go to Dallas as a destination for business or other reasons, so he said a route to Dallas would increase the number of enplanements.

"From a data perspective, Dallas is our biggest market," Milewski said.

With Sun Air, Mark Cestari, vice president of marketing for Sun Air, argued that Houston offered customers the most connections as a hub airport. Customers could get to their final destination with more nonstop flights, he said.

Interline agreement

"Points about the interline need to be considered by members of the community," Cestari said.

The process offers travelers ease of traveling with baggage because it will have one tag that will ensure it makes it to the final destination, he said.

Public Charters does not have an interline agreement similar to Sun Air, said Gallagher, but it offers an alternative.

It plans to partner with Southwest Airlines similar to how it operates in Manistee, Mich. Two tickets would be printed by Public Charters for the traveler, and then the baggage would be gate-checked for the flight to Austin to ensure it could be checked at the subsequent gate. However, the problem is that not all airlines will be able to gate-check a bag.

"The worst-case scenario, you would have to go claim your bag, but we make sure you have enough time to go out and get your bag," he said.

Austin is a small enough airport to be able to easily claim a checked bag and go through security, he said.

Baggage

Sun Air has offered solutions to the baggage issues in the past with its Piper Chieftain aircraft, Cestari said.

"We've reconfigured our baggage compartment to include more room," he said. "We've also offered soft-sided bags for travelers to use in the case that we can't stow their bag."

After baggage tags were automated, he said, the number of late or lost baggage went down and has no longer been an issue.

As far as capacity is concerned, Cestari said, all of these aircraft considered in the proposals will have baggage limitations.

Gallagher said his Jetstream 31 has not had issues concerning baggage capacity.

"Size and weight are two different pieces of a flight," he said. "We don't think there would be a limitation on capacity."

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