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Editorial: High hopes for service return at Reading airport

For quite some time the Reading area has been hanging its transportation hopes on the return of passenger train service to Philadelphia or perhaps a more robust intercity bus service than what’s available now.

There wasn’t much talk about bringing new life to the Reading Regional Airport other than more of the private business activity that’s been that facility’s focus for years now.

Last week that changed as the airport authority board learned that an airline has interest in offering year-round direct flights from Reading to Orlando, Fla.

It’s too soon to celebrate, of course, but the very discussion of that idea must be greeted as terrific news.

Airport director Zackary Tempesco said he has been approached by an airline, the name of which he declined to disclose, about establishing twice-weekly service on the route with a Boeing 737 aircraft.

It’s a very promising idea. Many Berks County residents travel regularly to Florida, and not just for its vacation destinations. Lots of folks have family and close friends in the Sunshine State. It would be great to have an option to get there without having to make a long drive and dealing with the hassles of a big airport such as Philadelphia’s.

Remember, too, that the closest thing to passenger service now offered at Reading are charter flights to Orlando offered by Boscov’s Travel, which have operated successfully for many years. That makes it even more clear that there is a market for service to that destination

If this proves successful, perhaps flights will be added from Reading to other destinations. Just a resumption of short flights to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh would open our city to the world again.

Of course a few caveats are in order. Most notably, the airport would be asked to contribute $75,000 to $100,000 toward an advertising campaign for the service and would have to invest in equipment to accommodate jets larger than the ones that typically use the airport. And the airline is expecting significant financial incentives.

The airport will need assurances that this service is going to last. Consider that many of the institution’s current financial problems were the result of borrowing $8 million to renovate the passenger terminal two decades ago, right around the time airlines decided to stop offering commercial flights to Reading.

If the terms of the deal are right, it would make great sense to put local money behind the effort. As Tempesco said, it’s about providing a service to the community. And this is a service we’ve desperately needed for a long time.

There could well be some financial benefits as well, including increased fees for concessions and fuel flowage and a general return to activity at the terminal. It would just be nice to see it being used for its intended purpose on a regular basis.

While we continue to have high hopes for Amtrak service in Reading, that’s years away even in the most optimistic scenario.

It would be great to have Reading return to the transportation map a lot sooner. Tempesco said the airline has told him it might be able to start service as early as this fall. That seems quite plausible, as the infrastructure already is there waiting for someone to use it.

We have reason to believe the airport could achieve sustained success as a passenger destination. Berks County’s population has grown by more than 50,000 since air service departed the area in 2000. Travel to other airports in the region hasn’t gotten any easier, or less expensive.

We encourage the airport authority to give this proposal serious consideration. Having a fully functioning airport would make travel more convenient for area residents and visitors, be helpful to the business community and give our region a much-needed boost in self-esteem.

It’s entirely possible that these two flights a week could be the start of something much bigger.

Source: Berkshire mont

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