The Lincoln Airport is one step closer to adding another airline and a new destination.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced last week that Lincoln was one of 16 cities awarded a Small Community Air Service Development grant.
According to the department’s order filed July 12, the airport will receive $750,000 that it can use as a revenue guarantee to try to entice American Airlines to start daily service to its hub in Dallas.
American pulled out of the Lincoln market in 2004, eliminating its three daily flights to Chicago. United Airlines now offers service to Chicago.
A consultant in 2016 identified Dallas as the city the airport should focus on for new service.
The airport received a $750,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant in 2013, which it used to convince Delta Air Lines to start service to Atlanta. In that case, the airport had a commitment from Delta that it would start service if the airport got the grant.
Executive Director David Haring said that this time the airport does not have such a commitment, but the grant will, “give us one more tool to utilize in conversations with air carrier representatives as we continue to stress our belief that a Lincoln-to-Dallas connection is a win-win endeavor for both the carrier and the community.”
Haring said the airport has up to four years to utilize the grant.
"We always evaluate new opportunities to where customers most want to fly," said American Airlines spokeswoman Nichelle Tait, in an email. Lincoln "is no exception. We will continue to evaluate, looking at supply and demand."
Adding the Atlanta flight helped the Lincoln Airport reverse a decade-long trend of declining passenger numbers, and it hit a nine-year high in 2017. However, passenger traffic dropped 5 percent in 2017 and is down another 5 percent through the first six months of 2018.