Portune criticizes airport
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who has often voiced concern about Delta's airfare rates and the way the airport is run, didn't mince words Wednesday as he made some strong suggestions for what he thinks should be done about it.
"The airport has been managed to serve Delta. That's why everyone is operating in crisis mode right now. If Delta goes, what do we do? We're in a panic."
Therefore, he said, some changes need to be made.
All this was brought on by recent talks of Delta merging with another carrier. "This issue involving Delta and how everyone is reacting has helped crystalize what the problems are in respect to that airport and have put in focus what changes need to occur," Portune said at the meeting.
Those changes (according to Portune) are:
1) Restructuring: The airport board should be restructured to represent the interests of the entire airport and the region, not just Delta. He said although Hamilton County has a representative on the board, that person has no voting power.
"The Ohio side should have a bigger say so in the future so this area is not as at risk by the success or failure of a single airline," Portune said. "I’d encourage a model that is more representative of Ohio and Hamilton County and more representative of the interests of the local economy." He plans to urge Governor Ted Strickland to speak to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear about the issue. The makeup of the airport board is dictated by the state.
2) Shuttle: The county should work to provide a shuttle service to take travelers to cheaper-fare airports like Dayton or Lexington. Portune said he worked with Auditor Dusty Rhodes on such a measure a year or so ago. He wants to renew those discusions and put together a request for qualifications for a shuttle company.
"This proposal benefits leisure and small business travelers and injects competition," he said.
3) Gate fee: The airlines should consider tacking on a $3 to $4 gate fee and use the proceeds to build a rail line from the airport to Downtown Cincinnati. Portune said this idea has also been discused for years, but has gone nowhere.
A rail line would "immeasurably add to the attraction of this airport," he said.
Portune plans to invite the local chamber of commerce and the county's airport board representative to the commission staff meeting Monday to discuss these ideas further.