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American Airlines seeks continuation of Essential Air Service subsidy at Watertown International

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American Airlines has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation to continue providing passenger service at Watertown International Airport through the federally subsidized Essential Air Service program.

The company is proposing to add a second Sunday flight and is asking for a slightly higher subsidy to support the additional flight, according to Barry M. Ormsby, R-Belleville, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators airport ad-hoc committee.

The county took over ownership of the airport from the city in 2006. Since then, legislators have made growing operations at the facility a priority. Enplanements were up 12 percent in May and 19 percent in June, according to Mr. Ormsby.

The county made the airport its own department earlier this year and is interviewing candidates for airport manager.

American Airlines, which operates the Watertown service through its American Eagle subsidiary, reported annual revenues of $5,328,809 and expenses of $8,537,956 with a loss of $3,209,148 for the Watertown service, which offers daily flights to and from Chicago. It is asking for a profit of $426,898 for a total subsidy from the federal government of $3,636,045.

Mr. Ormsby said that the county’s goal was to make the airport profitable enough to end the reliance on the Essential Air Service subsidy.

The company contends that its revenue is based on an average onboard fare of $132. A search of Priceline.com yielded a list of round-trip flights to the airline’s Chicago destination in September at a rate of $288.50.

The contract also includes language that would remove the requirement that the airline give 120 days notice if it decides to terminate service.

That provision was also included in the original 2011 agreement between the airline, the county, and the DOT, Mr. Ormsby said.

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