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Aguadilla’s Rafael Hernandez Airport Wins $616,700 Federal Grant

Funds will allow regional airport to attract service from airlines


October 9, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Editor’s note: The dollar amounts in the story we ran last week were incorrect. We are running it now with the correct figures.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted the municipality of Aguadilla $616,700 to improve air service at Rafael Hernandez Airport (RHA) under the Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program.

The federal program provides small communities with financial and other assistance to address issues with air service such as infrequent service and high airfares.

The funds will allow RHA to secure service from additional airlines, which would benefit travelers by providing more options and, theoretically, better fares. Another $313,333 is expected from the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.

"Puerto Rico’s airline industry has experienced solid growth in the past year; we managed to attract new carriers, seven of which established operations here for the first time," said Jose Suarez, executive director of the Tourism Co. "Another 29 airlines are considering proposals to establish new routes and new service from the U.S. mainland, Europe, South American, and the Caribbean."

Funding for the Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program was approved under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment & Reform Act for the 21st Century, which authorized $20 million for fiscal year (FY) 2001 and $27.5 million for each of FY 2002 and FY 2003. No funds, however, were appropriated for the first year. The U.S. Congress appropriated $20 million for the program in FY 2002 and FY 2003.

The law authorizes the Department of Transportation to provide financial assistance to a maximum of 40 communities each year, with no more than four from the same state.

The Department of Transportation requested that grant applications be filed no later than June 30. The agency received 170 grant proposals from communities in 46 states as well as from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Collectively, these communities sought more than $104 million in federal assistance to support their grant proposals. Only 35 grants were awarded for FY 2003.

According to the Department of Transportation, the pilot program is unique in that it affords communities the opportunity to develop their own solutions to their air-service problems based on their particular needs and circumstances. By providing communities substantial input and participation in the development and implementation of the air-service projects, the pilot program aims to maximize the potential for success in the communities’ endeavors.

The law gives priority to those communities or groups of communities where airfares are higher than the average airfares for all communities; a portion of the cost of activity contemplated by the community is provided from local, nonairport revenue sources; a public-private partnership has been or will be established to facilitate air service to the public; and improved service will bring the material benefits of scheduled air transportation to a broad section of the traveling public.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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