Plans for Columbia Air, a new airline that was to be based at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, have been shelved, another victim of the recession and a current lack of investor confidence in new airline ventures.
Dan A. Colussy, chairman of the would-be venture, confirmed yesterday that he and his skeleton staff had packed up and moved out of their BWI offices this week. Citing the current economic environment and continuing Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on airport landing rights resulting from the air traffic controllers strike, he said the planned operation was being "indefinitely postponed.
"When circumstances improve, Columbia Air plans to reactivate its plan," Colussy said.
Columbia had plans to begin service early this year from BWI initially to New York, Boston and Pittsburgh, with fares between 35 to 45 percent below existing coach fares. Columbia, many of whose officials came from Pan American World Airways with former Pan Am president Colussy, got formal authority from the Civil Aeronautics Board last summer to operate to 31 cities from BWI.
However, it was never able to raise the minimum $6 million to $8 million Colussy estimated was necessary to get going. A planned public offering of one million shares of stock scheduled for last fall was put off once and then abandoned altogether. For the next six months, Colussy sought unsuccessfully to put together private financing for the venture.
"The combination of the general state of the economy and the skittishness of the investment community now toward the airline industry blunted their efforts," according to T. James Truby, Maryland's state aviation administrator. "They were just unable to get over the top in financing."
Plans of another airline for extensive low-fare service from BWI to three Florida cities and to Long Island, N.Y., is also on hold. According to Truby, Northeastern International Airways, a Florida-based airline, was advertising its services but had failed to secure adequate landing rights from the FAA first.
Truby said BWI nevertheless is doing quite well, with passenger traffic up significantly in each of the past three months.