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State markets feeling effects of NW strike

The Northwest Airlines strike has transformed the normally bustling airports in Greenville and Hattiesburg/Laurel into little more than ghost towns, and is costing the Gulfport/Biloxi Regional Airport an estimated $30,000 per month in lost revenue.

A pilots` strike at Northwest Airlines caused the cancellation of all flights starting Sept. 7. During the strike about 60 other airlines have agreed to accept Northwest tickets for travel during the strike period. Ticket holders can either contact their travel agent or call Northwest Reservations at 1-800-225-2525.

Bruce Frallic, executive director Gulfport/Biloxi Regional Airport, said most Coast business travelers have been accommodated by other airlines.

“Most of the people who have been booked have been accommodated either in advance or by other carriers,” Frallic said. “Northwest did a good job anticipating the situation and contacting those people. They also met with local travel agencies a week or so before this so they were aware how to handle this. Any passengers who didn`t get the word and came up to get a flight that was not running were accommodated on other carriers. Northwest is required to do that, and they have been doing it.”

Frallic said Northwest was boarding about 100 passengers per day at the Gulfport/Biloxi Regional Airport.

“As far as airport revenues, that represents a loss of about $30,000 a month just to the airport,” Frallic said. “That isn`t small potatoes to us. That is very important. Of course, that does not include any losses to concessions-the gift shop, restaurant, and lounge-and losses to car rental agencies.

“We`re doing everything we can, turning over every possible source of influence, to help get the strike resolved. Northwest service is very, very important to us. There is no upside to a strike, in my opinion.”

There was an attempt by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to get Express Airlines I, Inc., which does business as Northwest Airlink, to resume service to the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport, as well as airports in Greenville, Muscle Shoals, Ala., Owensboro, Ky., and Jackson, Tenn.

In a letter to the DOT, Express Airlines president and CEO Philip H. Trenary said the airline will be unable to resume the service.

“Express Airlines I was forced to suspend its operations as a result of the strike of Northwest Airlines` pilots, a circumstance which is entirely outside the control of Express Airlines I and with devastating economic impact on Express Airlines I, our employees and the communities and passengers we serve,” Trenary said.

Trenary said he shared the DOT`s concerns about the loss of air service by the five communities. But he said resuming service during the strike would seriously jeopardize Express Airlines I`s long-term viability and threaten permanent service to the five communities.

“Express Airlines I recognizes and regrets the severe disruption and hardship that its temporary suspension of service has caused for its passengers, its employees and the communities which have lost service,” Trenary said.

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