Roanoke airport applying for $1 million grant to help reduce air fares

ROANOKE,Va. – For years, flyers out of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport say that they want more flights and lower prices.

Tracy Skalenar, who flies three to four times a month for work, said that maintenance upgrades are nice but not enough. 

“The exterior changes, like the canopy, are great but we look forward to things such as flight routes and what the cost of fares are to match those,” said Skalenar. “That’s what’s going to be the thing to get people to fly locally.”

Tracy would like to fly out of Roanoke, but her employer has her driving to neighboring cities for better deals.

Airport officials said more flyers need to use the airport to convince the airlines to add more services.

On Monday, the executive director of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, Tim Bradshaw, told the Roanoke City Council the airport could improve its service if it could get a combination of grants and incentives worth $2 million.

“The grant and this money will be more of a reassurance that the airlines can make it through the first few years of operation and guarantee an incentive for them to fly into the market,” said Bradshaw.

One million dollars would come from a small community federal grant.  The second million would come from local money and pledges from business leaders. Bradshaw said the money could convince the airlines they can profit from the added service.

Today, members of the Roanoke City Council endorsed the airport's plan to apply for the grant. The deadline is Dec. 16.

“The more we can drive up ridership and demonstrate that people are in fact flying in and out of Roanoke city that demonstrates to our carriers that people are indeed flying in and out of Roanoke city”, said Vice Mayor Anita Price. “Because they look at numbers and data drives everything.”