Roanoke airport awarded major grant to help add new nonstop flights

ROANOKE, Va. – The federal government is spending $750,000 to help bring new nonstop flights to the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport.

U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Congressman Bob Goodlatte sent representatives to Roanoke to make the announcement Tuesday morning.

The new flights would be to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, and/or Detroit. Negotiations will start today with three different airlines: American, Delta and United. 

The airport is going to try for two flights a day with each of the airlines.

If the airport is successful in negotiating with these airlines, flights could begin between six months up to two years. 

This is the only airport in Virginia that had not previously received this grant. This is the airport's third attempt to get this funding. 

"More and more communities have to pay to play in order to get additional air service. So this will give us revenue that we can offer an airline. This will guarantee them profitability for the first two years of operation for service," said Tim Bradshaw, Executive Director of Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport. 

The commission can use the funds for a revenue guarantee, a marketing program, and fee waivers.

Local businesses pitched in to match this grant, bringing the total funding to $1.5 million. This effort was a community collaboration where the Roanoke Regional Chamber and the Botetourt Chamber of Commerce worked with local businesses to secure pledges.

The funding was awarded through the Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP) under the Department of Transportation. These funds help smaller communities address air service access and high fares. 

It took months for airport officials to hear back from the federal government about these funds under the Small Community Air Service Development Grant.

The grant required a local match of $750,000. That's where the Roanoke Regional Chamber and the Botetourt County Chamber of Commerce came in to seek support from local businesses.

"Our goal is to not use any of the money. It's mainly used as a backstop in case the airline is not profitable. But based on our numbers and based on our research we feel that it will be profitable," said Bradshaw.