Saturday, December 2, 2023

PHF director says airport recently received good news from Delta, American

The Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport. (WYDaily/File photo)
The Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport. (WYDaily/File photo)

There’s some good news coming out of the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport.

Despite a recent slew of headlines involving the arrest of the former airport director Ken Spirito, current airport officials received two pieces of good news at a recent conference: Its airlines are performing well, and Delta plans to use a larger jet for one flight to Atlanta each day.

Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport officials received that news Friday at a conference put on by the Airports Council International of North America in Nashville, Tennessee.

Airport Executive Director Mike Giardino said Delta’s larger planes are “an incremental change” for air service at the airport and is “not something out of the ordinary” — but a positive nonetheless.

So, while the airport is not celebrating the addition of 25 daily seats for that Delta flight, Giardino said both American Airlines and Delta told airport officials they were “pleased with the performance of their service” at the airport.

“And they said keep it up,” Giardino said.

Details of the larger planes

This summer, Delta plans to start consistently operating a 149-seat McDonnell Douglas MD-88 aircraft on one of its three round trip flights between Newport News and Atlanta, Georgia.

The aircraft will be used just in time for the busy summer season, when more people are booking flights, Giardino said.

Since December, that flight has been running a Boeing 737 with 124 seats. Before that, it was a Bombardier CRJ-900 with 76 seats.

Giardino said Delta’s flights have been booked fairly consistently; On Monday, 143 seats were full on the Delta flight.

“We know people are responding because the planes are full,” Giardino said.

Keeping airlines here, getting people to come

Since Giardino was hired on as the airport’s new director about a year and a half ago, he has been working to bring in new flights and get the airport’s finances back on track.

RELATED STORY: With audit behind it, PHF’s new executive director hopes airport will take off

The airport’s most recent FAA inspection came back with zero discrepancies.

While headlines about past corruption at the airport are “old news” for local residents in Hampton Roads, Giardino confirmed the airlines still read the headlines.

Spirito, the former airport director, was indicted in May on several federal finance charges, according to an Associated Press report. The indictment includes charges of money laundering, and accuses Spirito of hiding public funds that were used to finance People Express Airlines in 2014.

Under Spirito, the Peninsula Airport Commission used taxpayer dollars to back a line of credit to the now-defunct PEOPLExpress airline for nearly 5 million dollars.

But it’s Giardino’s job to retain the current airlines and attract new airlines, he said, and the headlines haven’t deterred some of those discussions.

The airport has also been talking to United for more than a year to get the airline on the roster. United did not attend Friday’s conference, but has talked to the airport at other times.

Giardino said those conversations have been positive.

“We feel it’s a great place, we just have to ensure the traveling public looks to travel out of us first,” he said.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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