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LVIA to offer international, commercial flights

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 18 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 19 2012 04:13:40 AM CST

Cue the Beach Boys: Aruba, Jamaica, LVIA wants to take ya.

HANOVER TWP., Pa. -

Cue the Beach Boys: Aruba, Jamaica, LVIA wants to take ya.

But not just yet.

Tuesday officials announced that international flights are in the airport's future.

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Board of Governors has endorsed a plan to build a $5 million U.S. customs station.

The plan is part of a study that was done when the airport was trying to get Southwest Airlines to fly from LVIA.

"They submitted the letter and that caused the board of governors to consider it," said Charles Everett, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.

A completed customs center could mean flights to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean.

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Board of Governors first had to look at where the money for the center would come from.

"There's a grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, through the bureau of aviation that provides $1.5 million," added Everett.

That is only part of the $5 million needed.

Everett says the airport would borrow the remaining $3.5 million and they have a way to pay it back in the form of passenger facility charges.

Currently the charges are being used on other projects.

"Those projects will be fully paid for in the next several years," said Everett. "So it would provide the opportunity for the airport to use the proceeds from the passenger facility charges to fund the rest of the construction on the federal inspection station."

People say they would fly out of LVIA internationally instead of other cities like Philadelphia, Newark and New York if only the flights were available.

"If I could drive 15 minutes from my house, I'd do it in a heartbeat," said Bethlehem resident, Dave Herbert.

"It's certainly something we recognize the opportunity is there," added Everett. "We've been talking to carriers about it and it seems like the demand is there as well."

It will take up to 18 months to build the customs center once construction starts.

Even though the last commercial international flight to Canada stopped serving LVIA last August, the airport is still considered an international airport because private planes fly here from other countries.