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DENVER (AP) -- A Denver International Airport official says business leaders might consider airline subsidies, guaranteed purchases of blocks of seats and other economic incentives to lure another airline if United Airlines folds.
Denver Aviation Manager Bruce Baumgartner said he is not predicting United's liquidation, but added it's prudent that the airport and business leaders consider the worst-case scenario.
Speaking Friday to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, Baumgartner said DIA would need to find another carrier fast.
"The longer that period would go on, the greater the impact to the regional and state economy," Baumgartner said.
Colorado officials might try to entice Delta Air Lines to move its hub from Salt Lake City or get Continental Airlines to substitute Denver for its hub in Cleveland, said Walter Isenberg, president of a Denver hotel company and chairman of the convention and visitors bureau.
Northwest Airlines would be another candidate for locating a hub at DIA, Isenberg said. Local leaders also would nurture the expansion of existing DIA carriers, including Frontier Airlines, if United disappeared, he said.
Salt Lake City officials said they would aggressively fight any effort to take their airline business.
"In these uncertain times, all of our air service is essential," said Barbara Gann, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake airport. "We are working hard at retaining what we have and attracting new airlines."
United filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December. In the past month, the airline won wage and benefit concessions from its labor unions worth about $2.5 billion a year -- a major step in the company's effort to reorganize and successfully emerge from bankruptcy.
Aviation analysts recognize the progress United has made but warn of its vulnerability in the stagnant U.S. economy and the reduction in international travel caused by fears over severe acute respiratory syndrome.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)