Mar. 7—OGDENSBURG — Vernon D. "Sam" Burns, chairman of the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Board of Directors, expressed his disappointment with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Essential Air Service decision to not fund flights to Chicago.
For the past two years, SkyWest Airlines had been providing direct flights to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., and to O'Hare International in Chicago on 50 passenger jets for a total of 12 flights weekly.
"Before the (COVID-19) pandemic, the passenger count was more than acceptable to SkyWest and OBPA. Because of the excellent service and support the OBPA received from SkyWest Airlines and their recent proposal to continue the same service to the same hubs for a three-year term, the Board of Directors unanimously agreed to recommend the continued EAS support for that airline," Mr. Burns read from a prepared statement.
Mr. Burns said while he understood the decision by the DOT was a financial one, the department failed to take into account the long-term benefits to the region's flying public and to the OBPA of continuing flight service to both Chicago and Washington.
Mr. Burns said that after hearing from the public and the authority, the DOT needs to consider five factors, including the demonstrated reliability of the applicant in providing scheduled air service; the arrangements the applicant made with a large carrier to ensure service beyond the hub airport; the agreements made with larger carriers to allow passengers and cargo at the hub airport to be transported by the larger carriers through one reservation, ticket, and baggage check-in; the preferences of the actual and potential users of air transportation at the eligible place, giving substantial weight to the views of the elected officials representing the users of the service; and whether the air carrier has included a plan in its proposal to market its service to the community.
"I believe that the OBPA and SkyWest Airlines adequately satisfied those five factors," Mr. Burns said, "and would like to thank our elected officials at all levels, from the City of Ogdensburg to our Congresswoman (Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville) and U.S. Senators (Charles E.) Schumer and (Kirsten E.) Gillibrand for their support."
The authority will continue to work on securing another low cost carrier to replace Allegiant Air, which ceased operation at the airport last fall.
"The OBPA Board of Directors believes that as we move away from the pandemic and air travel returns to more normal rates, there are additional opportunities available for air service out of Ogdensburg International Airport," he said.