August 26, 2002
Community, Purdue may lose Northwest airline service
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Northwest Airlink, the only commercial airline serving the Purdue University Airport, may cancel its service here by the end of the year unless the community can pay a $500,000 annual subsidy, the airport's director said today (Monday, 8/26).
"We understand their position, they've been losing money, but the community leaders who met today could foresee no way to raise that amount of money in that short a period," said Betty Stansbury, the airport's director. "The past 12 months have been a difficult time for airlines in general, and Northwest is no exception. In the past year alone, they've lost about $300,000 on Lafayette service, and they are reevaluating whether to stay in this market."
Stansbury said Northwest will make its decision in mid-September, and service would end in December if the airline cancels flights to the airport. Stansbury said air service providers must file a petition to terminate service with the Department of Transportation 90 days prior to discontinuing flights.
Representatives from Purdue, Greater Lafayette Progress Inc., the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and local government officials met today to discuss the pending cancellation and to assess the feasibility of funding a subsidy.
"These are very difficult financial times right now," said Mike Brooks, president of Greater Lafayette Progress Inc. "While the community recognizes the importance of airline service to economic development, Northwest's request couldn't have come at a worse time."
Brooks said city budgets are already in place after facing cuts. Even if funds were available and could be diverted to provide the subsidy, getting approvals would be difficult and take more time than Northwest has allowed for making its decision, he said.
"We will investigate finding other airline providers," Brooks said.
Stansbury said the airline has been losing money on its service for the past year.
"They have been providing a great service to Lafayette for the past 10 years, and we'd love for them to stay, but I am not optimistic of that happening."
The Purdue Airport, located on the West Lafayette campus, was the first university-owned airport in the nation.
Northwest offers two daily commercial flights to Detroit Metro Airport, providing Purdue area residents access to the more than 750 cities and 120 countries on six continents that Northwest Airlines and its travel partners serve, Stansbury said.
Great Lakes Aviation, which formerly served Purdue airport, terminated its air service in February 2001.
Writer: Grant Flora, (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Betty Stansbury, (765) 743-3442
Mike Brooks, (765) 742-0095
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com