By Peggy Mackenzie
The Greenbrier Valley Airport is undergoing upgrades to infrastructure, involving 23 separate projects and a few equipment purchases, said Airport Director Stephen Snyder at the Greenbrier County Airport Authority (GCAA) board meeting on Tuesday.
Part of the improvements included approving a bid of $50,350 to completely repaint the entire terminal exterior. The fresh look will complement the new restaurant, Landings, expected to have a “soft” opening later this month, Snyder said.
Buried amidst the many topics of discussion during the meeting was the anticipated airline service question, which is still unresolved as the Department of Transportation (DOT) awaits the closure of the public comment period before determining whether to award the GVA rebid contract for Essential Air Service (EAS) to Sky West Airlines. Snyder said Via Airlines has determined to not voluntarily step out of their contract until after the public comment period closes.
“What’s the worst case scenario?” asked Greg Furlong, vice president of sales and event services with The Greenbrier, who, along with Chief Operating Officer (COO) Elmer Coppoolse, was in attendance at the meeting. Putting it bluntly, Furlong said, “What if the DOT doesn’t force ViaAir out of their contract, what then?”
Snyder responded, stating that although he couldn’t speak for the DOT, he said, “They get it.” He said he was confident that DOT understands how critical to economic and tourism development a reliable EAS is for the Greenbrier Valley. The inconsistent air service situation at GVA is supported by documentation from other airports experiencing similar service failures by Via Air, said Snyder.
Snyder went on to say that when the order to rebid is signed by DOT, SkyWest, under the regional name of United Jet Express, will begin service at GVA within 90 days, with ticket reservation sales to begin within 30 days.
The the DOT’s rebid approval, the airport will initiate an ambitious advertising campaign, working with all media and tourism partners, Snyder said, to bring in customers and to make them aware of the far-reaching travel expectations available direct from Greenbrier Valley’s new air service provider.
In other business, GCAA Board President Lowell Johnson asked that the members of the newly formed Airport Advisory Committee begin their meetings on a regular monthly schedule so that they can start making their recommendations to the board this fall. The board discussed term limits and subcommittee assignments and approved a staggered initial term of one, two and three years to be followed by three year term limits for the advisory committee. Subcommittee discussions will encompass economic development, tourism and special events and public outreach, Johnson said.