Great Lakes Ends Service, WRPA Weighs Litigation

VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Ohio – Great Lakes JetExpress abruptly ended its service between Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and O’Hare international Airport following its returning flight Wednesday night.

In a news release, Aerodynamics Inc., which operates the service, cited the “reluctance” of the Western Reserve Port Authority’s board of directors “to come to a reasonable ceasing of operations” that left ADI “with no option other than to discontinue” the service immediately.

“ADI had hoped to negotiate an orderly discontinuation of service, but unfortunately have been unable to come to terms with” the WRPA board, ADI said.

The port authority announced Aug. 17 that it would stop subsidizing the service, which launched July 1. The WRPA board of directors voted unanimously to discontinue support subsidized by a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant and local matching funds, because of low passenger counts, the speed at which ADI was burning through the subsidy, and its failure to secure interline agreements with airlines that fly out of O’Hare.

As of last week, load factors for the daily service were averaging 28%.

In comments to The Business Journal last week, Mickey Bowman, ADI chief operating officer, said his company was “disappointed” in the WRPA board’s decision but understood it “given the ridership the service is experiencing.” He noted the contract with the port authority requires a 90-day notice to cancel the service but said ADI would work with the vendors it has contracts with, including fixed-base operator Winner Aviation, to see if an earlier termination date were possible.

The WRPA board will discuss its options regarding how to proceed at a special meeting Friday, said Dan Dickten, aviation director at the airport. The purpose of the meeting is “to confer with counsel regarding imminent litigation,” according to a media advisory.

John Moliterno, WRPA executive director, said last week that the agency spent tens of thousands of dollars to market the Great Lakes service only to receive “phone call after phone call from people who wanted to connect [to flights out of O’Hare] but couldn’t,” Moliterno said. “It became very frustrating.”

The lack of interline agreements, “That’s something we didn’t know. We were told this was going to be seamless. We would not have entered into this had we known that was not the case,” Moliterno said.

ADI, incorporated in Michigan, has a corporate office in Beachwood and an operations office in Kennesaw, Ga. It is owned by John and Janet Beardsley, who also own SeaPort Airlines Inc., which does business as Wings of Alaska.

Passengers holding reservations on the Chicago-Youngstown, flights were advised to contact Great Lakes to process their refunds. The reservations line is 1 800 554 5111 and the email for refunds is [email protected].

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