TCRA, United Airlines reach compromise

By Stephen S. Glass

Star Staff

   United Airlines has responded to the Tri-Cities Regional Airport Commission's offer to withdraw a complaint lodged with the U.S. Department of Transportation. TCRA filed the complaint after United announced in mid-September that it planned to discontinue flights to the airport without giving the 45-day advance notice required by the DOT. Citing financial difficulties, United requested the government agency waive its advanced notice policy.
   In an effort to reach a compromise with United, officials at TCRA offered to withdraw their complaint if United would continue limited service to the airport through Oct. 20.
   According to Melissa Thomas, marketing director for TCRA, United "welcomed the offer and expressed regret that they had to reduce service to one flight a day following the tragic events of Sept. 11." Immediately following the attacks in New York and Washington, United cut two of its three daily Chicago-Blountville flights. All United service to the airport will now end on Oct. 20.
   In a joint statement released Thursday by United Airlines and Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation, the airline with whom United had subcontracted its TCRA flights, United's lawyers outlined their position concerning the discontinued flights and formally thanked TCRA for offering the compromise.
   "As for the short-term, United and AWAC understand the commission's desire to extend AWAC's service for a brief period following its currently scheduled Oct. 5 termination date. Despite continuing to sustain substantial losses on the service, United and AWAC will make the arrangements necessary to continue the daily Tri-Cities flight until Oct. 20," officials said.
   "Once the market recovers from present disruptions, United and AWAC look forward to working with the Tri-Cities communities to reassess Chicago-Tri-Cities services."
   TCRA Executive Director John Hanlin said, "By agreeing to stay until Oct. 20, United has effectively provided a reasonable 30-day notice. And while that is short of the 45 days required, it provides service through the [Jonesborough] International Storytelling Festival and allows people time to make appropriate changes in travel plans."
   According to Thomas, "The airport commission has yet to receive final word from the DOT approving the offer for early termination or the request for the Chicago slots to be reserved for Tri-Cities use." e do with what we've got to do with until we can do better," he said. "The people of this county cannot afford another tax increase to build a new facility."