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Thursday, April 12, 2012 12:31 am

BON VOYAGE, TAX DOLLARS

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport’s venture into the airline business has hardly taken off.

The airport last month committed $715,000 in public money to charter jets to replace flights to and from Florida that were canceled by Direct Air, which abruptly ceased operations and declared bankruptcy. To break even, the airport needed slightly more than 5,000 people to buy tickets. More than 7,700 folks held Direct Air tickets when the airport signed its deal with Vision Airlines.

Halfway through the venture, it appears that a lot of folks made other arrangements.

With seven round trips left to go, 1,670 tickets had been sold as of Monday, according to airport director Mark Hanna. The airport, which has guaranteed $55,000 per roundtrip to Vision Airlines, will likely end up subsidizing flights, but Hanna said he didn’t know how much the airport will end up paying.

The airport had originally said that one-way tickets would cost $139 apiece, but the price has been cut to as low as $99, Hanna said. The price increases to $119, then goes to $139 as seats available on each flight decrease, he said. Through Saturday, approximately $210,000 in tickets have been sold, and business has dropped substantially since 1,200 trips were booked during the first week of sales. In the ensuing two weeks, approximately 500 tickets were sold.

Hanna said that the airport is working with Vision Airlines to cut costs by using smaller jets than the 200-seat planes that were originally envisioned. 
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