WATERLOO — Waterloo Regional Airport hopes to lure more charter flights — like gambling excursions that fly passengers directly to casino destinations — by reducing the fees airlines pay.
The airport board unanimously agreed to a fee waiver schedule for “non-signatory aircraft operators,” excluding athletic charter flights, during its Wednesday meeting. The plan goes to the City Council for final approval.
It’s the first time the ALO board has developed a policy for specialty or seasonal charters that take people directly to a destination a few times a year or more. Previously, fee waivers were considered on a case-by-case basis.
“We just want to have something in the event they approach us — something in hand to showcase to them that we’re serious about this,” said Keith Kaspari, director of aviation. “It’s an incentive I think we can accommodate pretty well.”
Kaspari said the airport is particularly interested in luring a charter flight from Caesar’s Rewards Air that takes passengers to places like Atlantic City and Reno from 150 U.S. cities. He’d also be interested in a specialty charter to Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas would be a really strong market,” he said. “But it all depends; we’re in a nationwide pilot shortage, and that could hang in there for a while.”
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The waivers, which could amount to a few hundred dollars in revenue loss per flight for the airport, would likely be offset by an increase in parking lot usage for passenger cars, Kaspari noted.
“The last time we did this, the first flight garnered — just on parking — $900,” he said.
Fees for aircraft parking, use of the baggage belt and passenger boarding bridge, use of the de-icing vehicle if applicable in the winter, use of the airline ticket counter and fire protection services would be waived entirely for the first year, and aircraft landing fees would be reduced, according to airport documents.
Fees would be reduced by 75% in the second year and 50% in the third year, with airlines paying the full rates in subsequent years.
The board approved a similar arrangement a few months ago for its signatory carrier, American Airlines, if it would expand its Chicago service by adding another flight or adding a second destination from Waterloo, said Kaspari.