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Spirit Airlines bolsters Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

With nearly 56,000 passengers on Spirit Airlines flights into and out of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport this year, airport officials are hoping for expanded service in 2012.

"We've done well enough that hopefully (Spirit) will come to us -- and it should be soon -- saying that they'll expand service," Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, said at the board's meeting on Tuesday.

Spirit Airlines, a discount airline, began serving the airport near Latrobe in February with nonstop flights to and from Fort Lauderdale four days a week. They also offer seasonal service to Myrtle Beach, which began in May and ended yesterday.

Jeff Minkovich, who manages Spirit flights for the airport, told the authority that the Unity facility recently received Spirit's quarterly performance award for being No. 1 in customer service, on-time performance and training for stations its size.

"It is very rare for a station as young as this to receive this award as quickly as we have," Minkovich said.

The airport authority employs more than 20 people to service the Spirit flights.

Airport officials have begun improvement projects at the facility because of the airline.

A passenger-loading bridge improvement project, which cost about $200,000, should be completed in the next month. The project will reinforce the apron where Spirit planes sit for boarding with a concrete pad. In addition, the passenger bridge will be adjusted to better meet the height of Spirit's aircraft.

The airport also began a parking lot expansion project that will add 215 spaces to the facility to meet the needs of Spirit's customers. The $825,000 project will not be completed until spring because wet October weather did not allow for blacktopping.

Monzo said he expects to hear by the end of the year whether Spirit plans to expand its schedule from the Unity airport.

"We're waiting on pins and needles," Monzo said.

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