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How the American Air Merger Helped Charlotte, Philly and Fort Wayne

American, meanwhile, has lacked strength in the Southeast. But now, North Carolina cities like Fayetteville and Wilmington could gain service to Chicago or Dallas. "There are dozens of routes that never would have worked before," Hartz said.

Charlotte's domestic gains have been accompanied by merger-related international losses. Charlotte will lose its non-stop Sao Paulo service on Oct. 1 and its non-stop Rio service at year's end, seemingly an acknowledgment that an airline with a Miami hub need not bother to seek out additional connecting points for Brazil service.

As for Fort Wayne, the US Airways destinations may be the most important additions but they are not the only ones. The airport accommodated 368,199 passengers through July, up 9% from the total in the first seven months of 2013 and up 12% over two years.

Allegiant added twice weekly Mesa service in October 2013. United Express added a fourth daily Chicago flight in April. In July, Delta replaced a 50-seat jet with a 76-seat jet on its midday Atlanta flight, and on Sept. 1, Delta added a fourth daily Atlanta flight.

The gains reflect the area's business and community leaders' support for airport expansion, Hinderman said. "They came together and started identifying what they could do to make Fort Wayne a better place for business, and one was to improve air service," he said.

Following the commitment, airport officials approached every major carrier. US Airways was first to respond, and Hinderman met with airline officials in Phoenix late last year. Fort Wayne offered incentives that included waiving landing fees for a year, $100,000 in marketing assistance and a two-year revenue guarantee. The cost is largely paid, Hinderman said, by a $600,000 federal grant the airport secured to promote new service.

What's next? Hinderman said he is talking with United (UAL) about Newark. "We believe we will have Newark service, but we are still a small airport and the airlines want to sit back and see how Philadelphia performs," he said. And not to say that Fort Wayne's small airport has has very big dreams, but one of its two runways is 12,000 feet long -- long enough to accommodate any jet in the world.

Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

To contact this writer,
click here.

Follow @tedreednc





At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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