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Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Roger Myers, left, one of Fort Wayne International Airport’s original station agents, and Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, cut the cake Tuesday to mark Customer Appreciation Week.

Airport thanks airlines, fliers

Treats, prizes, praise fill week of celebration

Old photographs on display capture some of the history of Fort Wayne International Airport, formerly named Baer Field.

Roger Myers was there at the beginning.

The 88-year-old former World War II bombardier has been around planes for, well, a long time.

“I remember when what we call Smith Field had one flight a day to Chicago,” said Myers, one of Fort Wayne International Airport’s original station agents.

“Back in 1947, when I started, I would load airplanes, be in contact with the pilots and check with the weather bureau. I loved it.”

At the time, the airport had 2,400 departures a year, compared with nearly 300,000 departures today.

Myers recalls family plan rates that cost $20 to $25 for round-trip flights to Indianapolis.

“If you had a wife and a couple of kids, they would ride for half price,” said Myers, author of “Fort Wayne Aviation: Baer Field and Beyond.”

“You could go to the mall, eat and come back later that day.”

Myers was on hand during a Customer Appreciation Week reception Tuesday at the airport. Officials at the travel hub gathered for the occasion, which included a multilayer cake and remarks from county leaders.

Travelers will be treated with various giveaways through Sunday, and the carriers are being praised for their time at the airport.

United Airlines has offered air service out of Fort Wayne for 65 years, Delta Air Lines for 60 years and American Airlines for 40 years.

Scott Hinderman, executive director of airports for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, said the airlines have continued to thrive in the city despite cutbacks in the industry.

“We’re up 2 percent from last year, and we’re hoping to end the year up 3 percent,” he told a handful of airport employees and media members.

In September, a consultant advised airport administrators they would be wise to continue working to secure more nonstop flights to major cities for business travelers, who made up most of the 284,465 departures last year.

Jeffrey Hartz, senior consultant with Mead & Hunt, a consulting firm in Madison, Wis., also said swinging a deal for larger aircrafts with the carriers would help ensure the airport’s survival.

Hinderman said business travelers remain a priority for the airport, which this month expects to release results from a survey of companies that sought to discover ways to improve service for them.

The airport is showing its appreciation this week, including a contest in which travelers can participate in person or online. Prizes include a $250 travel voucher from each airline, Vera Bradley tote bags, DeBrand chocolates and an airport prize package.

Online entries will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Contest participants must visit or go to the airport’s Facebook page.