A $1 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant could help land Mobile a direct flight to Washington, D.C.
The Mobile Airport Authority has been awarded a Small Community Air Service Development Grant, which would allow the quasi-governmental agency the resources to help United Airlines bring a direct flight from Mobile to Washington-Dulles airport in northern Virginia, MAA President Chris Curry said.
“Washington is always in the top two underserved destinations we have,” he said. “The intent of the grant is to enhance Mobile’s position to allow United to provide that service.”
Not only is D.C. a top tourist destination for travelers from this area, but direct access to the market opens up options for international flights to Europe and Canada, Curry said.
United and other entities appear to be on board as well, as the airline, Austal, Airbus and the University of South Alabama all wrote support letters to go with MAA’s grant application, Curry said.
The grant award doesn’t necessarily mean United will immediately begin a flight to the nation’s Capital. Curry said the airport he managed in Tallahassee, Fla., received a similar grant and it took three years to get the service up and running.
“It doesn’t mean it’s imminent and it doesn’t mean it’s not,” he said. “It’s another tool we can use that maybe pushes United over the fence and mitigates some of their risk.”
U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Mobile, congratulated the MAA in a statement.
“I’m incredibly grateful the Department of Transportation has awarded a $1 million federal grant to the Mobile Airport Authority as a result of their hard work to secure this funding,” the statement read. “This significant investment will result in increased connectivity between Mobile and Washington, D.C., and will enable continued economic development for south Alabama.”
It’s still up in the air whether the new service, when it gets off the ground, will fly from Mobile Regional Airport or the Downtown Airport at the Brookley Aeroplex. Curry said the grant was written for flexibility.
“United could choose to move downtown earlier and offer the service, or they could start the service at Regional and move it over in three years,” he said.
The MAA plans to move all commercial service to Brookley within the next three years to help it better compete with terminals in Pensacola and other places. Currently, there are no commercial flights out of the Downtown Airport since Frontier Airlines left the market in early 2020.
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