The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has kicked $75,000 more into the marketing effort for Allegiant airline, which will resume flights at the airport Thursday.
The board authorized the expenditure of the money by a 4-0 vote at a special meeting on Wednesday at the Airport Administration Building.
Airport Interim Director Steve Landry said the money would be used for marketing through next year's spring break for schools, traditionally one of the busiest times for Northwest Indiana-to-Florida travel.
The airport authority approved the expenditure of $75,000 to promote the airline when it began flights from Gary in February. During the summer it approved spending $75,000 more on the effort. Landry said all of the money is coming out of the airport's marketing budget.
Landry told the authority board the airport's marketing promotions in part are designed to make sure the airline reaches at least 10,000 passenger enplanements per year. Airports with airlines carrying that number of passengers are eligible for $1 million in federal airport improvement funds. Airports that don't reach that mark get just $150,000.
Board member Ross Amundson said he was not in favor of using the money to promote spring break travel, because flights basically sell themselves during that time period. But he voted for the latest marketing expenditure.
Also present at the meeting and voting in favor were the Rev. Marion Johnson Jr., Nathaniel Williams, and Robert Poparad. Absent for the special meeting were Silas Wilkerson, Cornell Collins and Roosevelt Allen.
Airport marketing director James Ward told the board new marketing efforts would include targeting areas that still need to be made more aware of the flights. So far, Allegiant promotions done by the airport via social media are attracting the most interest from Valparaiso, Gary, Schererville, Merrillville and Crown Point, Ward said.
New marketing efforts will include a broad-based media campaign that will continue to target not only Northwest Indiana but also the South Side and south suburbs of Chicago, Ward said.
Allegiant flights from Gary to Orlando/Sanford International Airport were suspended for six weeks due to low seasonal demand in September. About 50 percent of Allegiant's system saw similar reductions. Flights resume Thursday.
In addition to Thursday flights, Allegiant also flies from Gary to Orlando on Sundays. People can make seat reservations through April at the Allegiant Web site, http://www.allegiantair.com .