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    Monday, January 30, 2023

    CAA surveys businesses on air travel to interest carrier in Groton airport

    Groton-New London Airport, seen from the air May 21, 2010. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Groton — The Connecticut Airport Authority is surveying businesses in the area on their top destinations and annual travel expenditures as it continues to build its case to restore commercial passenger service to Groton-New London Airport.

    The airport authority hopes to collect the information to interest an airline in considering Groton-New London Airport as a destination, said Tony Sheridan, the chairman of the Connecticut Airport Authority's board of directors.

    The survey will be distributed to businesses all over eastern Connecticut, said Sheridan, who also is the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

    "We want to get a sense of the level of travel that would be available for Groton-New London," he said.

    The survey is the next step after the airport authority convened a meeting at the end of May with representatives of major employers in the region, including Electric Boat, Pfizer, Dominion Energy, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.

    "Everyone is eager to see something more happen at the airport," Sheridan said, adding that it would help the business community if the airport authority could facilitate restoring commercial passenger service.

    "We think we can save them a significant amount of money and time by having a commuter airline there," Sheridan said.

    The CAA and the employers in the region discussed the benefits of having a small commuter airline fly to some major cities, including avoiding highway congestion and having free parking at the airport, according to Sheridan.

    "It's safe. It's easy in and out," he said. "It's ideal for the right carrier."

    CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon is working on identifying airlines that might be interested in the airport, Sheridan said. The number of flights that the companies would do daily is what would convince a small carrier to come to Groton, he said.

    Last year, an airline was interested in the airport, which has retained its commercial certification since U.S. Airways Express, the airport's top carrier, stopped flying in to Groton more than 15 years ago, according to The Day's archives. However, the deal ended when the airline's planned acquisition of another carrier to provide the aircraft didn't pan out, Dillon said in the fall.

    Dillon said in May that the CAA's discussions over the possibility of enhanced commercial service at Tweed-New Haven Airport won't alter its trajectory to try to develop commercial service at Groton-New London but acknowledged that, from a market standpoint, significantly increased commercial service at an airport within the same geographic area hypothetically could impact the chances for commercial service in Groton.

    Sheridan said in a May interview that the Groton airport is located far enough away to have its own service, and now is the time to look for an airline carrier, with economic development in the region, including growth at Electric Boat and the offshore wind deal.

    Once the CAA receives responses to the surveys from businesses, it may make follow-up phone calls to get more details and convene another meeting, if necessary, Sheridan said.

    He said the CAA is open to hearing all ideas.

    "Anyone who has something to offer, we're more than willing to listen," Sheridan said.

    The survey can be found on the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut's website and at bit.ly/GNLAsurvey.

    The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce also will be helping with the survey.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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