Low-cost airline AirTran is pulling out Charleston in early December.
The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce said it was informed of the company’s decision earlier this week.
The carrier’s last flights to and from Atlanta are set for Dec. 3. AirTran was credited with lowering local fares and creating $80 million a year in savings.
“They just haven’t been able to achieve the level they needed for this to be an economically viable route for them,” said Mary Graham, the chamber’s senior vice president of public policy.
A team of community leaders — from the chamber, the Charleston County aviation authority, the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the cities of Charleston and North Charleston and the town of Mount Pleasant — considered subsidizing the airline to keep it in Charleston, according to aviation authority chairman David Jennings.
Jennings said the group toyed with the idea of providing AirTran $500,000 to keep its service for 90 days but then decided the cost came with no guarantee.
“All of (the municipalities) said without hesitation, ‘We can’t cut people. We can’t fail to hire more policemen or firemen. We can’t not give people raises,’” Jennings said. “There never was a detailed conversation with AirTran about that.”
Jennings characterized the airline’s departure as an “interruption in service.” Asked what that means for the future, he said, “Ask them. That’s their term.”
AirTran officials could not be reached for comment immediately.
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