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|American begins jet service at Monroe regional|
American Airlines will begin providing jet service from Monroe Regional Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
On Wednesday, American Airlines flew its first 50-seat jet to Monroe Regional Airport, with ULM graduate Capt. Steve Smith piloting the aircraft.
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said American Airlines will retire the SAAB turboprop plane, which it currently uses to fly to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.
"That's a great deal for our region to have larger planes," Mayo said. "Now our challenge will be to fill those seats."
"If we don't do that, it will be difficult to keep them here," Mayo added.
The city of Monroe recently began a marketing campaign to encourage more people to use Monroe Regional Airport.
"We're trying to generate more attention to our airport and get more people to fly out of our airport instead of going to Jackson, Alexandria or Shreveport," Mayo said.
Mayo hopes having larger jets at the Monroe airport will encourage more residents to use the local airport for their traveling needs.
"Most people prefer larger planes where they have more room and feel more comfortable," Mayo explained. "We'll be able to accommodate them, and we certainly hope that it increases the number of travelers because we certainly need that.
"All the airlines make business decisions, and if we're not able to fill the seats, there's that challenge of whether they'll stay here. That's not just American Airlines, but all of them.
"So, we're asking all of our community, the businesses, ULM, and elected officials to join us to help promote our regional airport. It's not just Monroe's airport, but the region's airport, and we're calling on the region to help fill those seats."
The city recently got a commitment from the Federal Aviation Administration to help build a new terminal at Monroe Regional Airport.
Mayo hopes construction for the $35-million terminal will begin some time in 2010. He hopes to have it completed by the end of his current term in 2012.
The city recently called a special election for Nov. 4 for voters to decide on five tax renewals and a new tax for the terminal project. That tax proposal is a 10-year, 1.00-mill property tax, which would generate $372,317 annually.
The 0.6-mill property tax for the city court building was paid off, meaning taxpayers would see a 0.4-mill increase on what they already pay if the new proposal is approved by voters in November, Mayo said.
Mayo expects the city will begin a public awareness campaign soon to inform voters about the upcoming tax proposals and why they should support them.
FAA also recently approved Monroe's request for a passenger facility charge of $4.50 per passenger. The new fee will be implemented beginning Nov. 1. It will help generate $16 million over the next 27 years, which will go toward the new terminal project, Mayo said.
"We're right within striking distance of what we need to construct the new terminal," Mayo said. "Of course, we still need a couple more appropriations, but we're there for the most part."