By Adam Pack
Greenbrier Valley Airport’s lobby was full of citizens, elected officials, and representatives of regional tourism to officially welcome Contour Airlines to Lewisburg and the Greenbrier Valley last Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Chairwoman of the Greenbrier Valley Airport Authority Deborah Phillips was on hand for the ceremony, saying that Contour and the airport have a “good relationship” and that Contour has performed “very well in other similarly sized airports as an ESA [Essential Air Service] provider.” Chairwoman Phillips went on to comment on the process of settling on Contour Airlines as the new provider for the airport, saying that the authority had to be “very diligent with our choice of airline” in order to ensure consistency in flight service.
“There are pilot shortage issues across the board these days, and it wasn’t easy to go away from United [Airlines] but we felt that going with American [Airlines via] Contour was the best choice.”
Airport Director Brian Belcher also discussed his thoughts on the beginning of a new chapter for LWB: “The Authority and I are really excited to start this new service, and service to Charlotte in particular. That’s the hub for American Airlines and so from there passengers can board flights globally, and we’re really excited to open the area that way. We expect more people to be inbound from southern destinations especially to our resorts and everything our wonderful tourism industry has to offer, and we look forward to seeing Contour grow and develop and benefit from this arrangement just as much.”
However, he made it clear that this was no simple business deal. “So many people contributed to this day, whether it was the airport authority members who dealt with the difficult decisions that they had to make, to the county commission, to local business and the CVB supporting us, to all the staff here who made this such an attractive option and had four airlines vying to provide flights for us. It was truly a team effort and will continue to be so and we’re so proud of everyone who helps keep this place up, running, and working great.”
Executive Director of the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau Kara Dense was present as well and was “elated” at the “opportunity we have again for that southern connection. When this airport has had connecting flights to major southern ports in the past we’ve done very well, and we look forward to that at the CVB and helping transfer that potential into growth for area tourism.”
Mayor Beverly White stated that she “hopes the best for Contour and for Lewisburg. This is a huge opportunity for the town, this community, and the county as whole and we welcome them with open arms.”
Speakers also addressed the crowd, beginning with a representative of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. His prepared statement applauded the work of the airport, its Authority, county government, and all those staff and personnel who make the airport “such a successful and innovative player in the ever evolving world of aviation.”
Contour Airline CEO Matt Chaefitz then spoke to the crowd, declaring his “deep passion for running airlines and running them in wonderful communities like those in West Virginia that we already serve.” To speak to the quality that Contour is committed to delivering to the Greenbrier Valley, Chaefitz recalled that, “I was the only kid in the world who said he wanted to run an airline at 5 years old … and no one who does that dreams of running a bad one.” To that end he announced that all seating on Contour flights to and from Lewisburg will now have 36 inches of clearance between seats, “Which is nearly top of the industry for leg room and is comparable to first class seating across the aviation industry.” While the $59 dollar fare deal for flights from Lewisburg expired yesterday, Chaefitz was quick to point out “fares have only gone up ten dollars after the expiration of that deal, so we feel that our fares are still priced very competitively and always will be.”
Contour’s new three-year deal began life at 3 p.m. with a flight to Charlotte with special guests and airport personnel aboard, and The Greenbrier Valley Airport and Airport Authority encourage everyone to check out the affordable fares and multitude of destinations on offer through Contour Airlines.