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MTAA pushing to get commercial air service back to Topeka

(File)
(File)(WIBW)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 12:51 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Getting air passenger service is the top priority of the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority, but it’s going to take buy-in from the community as well.

That’s what MTAA President Eric Johnson is telling the Topeka City Council.

In a letter to the City, Johnson said MTAA has gotten more than $19 million dollars in Coronavirus Relief money, the majority going to the Topeka Regional Airport and a lesser amount to Billard Municipal Airport.

In his letter, Johnson hints that MTAA needs a stronger commitment from the business community. Johnson said, “....commercial air service is an essential element of bolstering Topeka’s economy.” And Johnson says what is needed is a minimum revenue guarantee to attract a passenger service provider. He points to that last air service in 2014, in which the City did make a revenue guarantee.

Johnson said another problem is a pilot shortage in the U.S. He points to a Congressional hearing that indicated airline employees had been offered incentives to retire early, despite Covid relief funds that could have been used to keep them working. Johnson said reports indicate 500 new pilots enter the industry each year, but some 15,000 pilots are expected to retire in the next couple of years.

Johnson said Topeka’s best hope is to attract low-cost carriers that serve multiple destinations and he believes MTAA can find such a partnership in the future.

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