FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 28, 2010
SCHUMER URGES SOUTHWEST TO PLEDGE TO MAINTAIN AND CONSIDER EXPANDING SERVICE FOR UPSTATE AND HV TRAVELERS IF PROPOSED MERGER WITH AIRTRAN GOES THROUGH
Southwest Airlines Reportedly Set to Merge with AirTran - Outcome Of AirTran's Current Flight Schedule Unknown
Schumer Seeks Assurances from Southwest Chief that Current Air Service To New York Airports Will be Maintained - Says That this Could Be An Opportunity To Increase Flights From Rochester, White Plains and Buffalo
Schumer: Efficient and Affordable Airline Service Is Criti
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today sent a personal letter to Gary C. Kelly, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Airlines, asking him to publicly commit to maintaining air travel service for New Yorkers from the Hudson Valley and Upstate if a proposed merger between Southwest and AirTran goes through. While there must be adequate time to assess the impact that any merger would have on the price that consumers pay for tickets, Schumer today sought a public assurance that air service, which acts as an engine for Upstate New York’s economy, would not be reduced.
Schumer also called the proposed merger a potential opportunity for Southwest to bring addition service and destinations to airports in Upstate New York and asked Mr. Kelly to also commit to consider expanding. Southwest already serves Albany and Buffalo and has been an important addition to the Upstate air service community. AirTran currently serves airports in Rochester, Buffalo and White Plains, making any decrease in service potentially devastating for Upstate’s economy. Schumer said that the bottom line for him in this proposed merger is how it impacts service in Upstate communities.
“Frequent and affordable air service is fundamental to New York’s economy, and it’s absolutely critical that Southwest pledges to maintain the same level of air service we have now,” Schumer said. “This merger also presents an opportunity for Southwest to expand service in New York, and I’m asking Mr. Kelly to commit to taking a look at that possibility. Southwest has played an important and positive role in New York, and I hope they will continue to do so. For over ten years I’ve fought to bring more affordable air service to all parts of New York, and the bottom line for me in this proposed merger is what the effect will be on New York travelers and businesses.”
This week, Southwest Airlines announced that it planned to purchase AirTran in a $1.4 billion deal that will reportedly mean current AirtTran operations will adopt Southwest policies. And while the effect on Upstate and Hudson Valley air service is currently unclear, today Schumer pressed Southwest’s CEO for a public assurance that any merger will maintain New York State’s current service and that the airline provider will strongly consider increasing the number of flights throughout Upstate New York.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that, from the 2009 to the 2010 summer travel seasons, AirTran had the largest passenger loads at the Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) with 18.5% share at the airport, and had the second-largest passenger loads at Westchester County Airport (HPN) with a 17% share. Southwest carried the most passengers at Buffalo Niagara International Airport with a 27.5% share. AirTran and Southwest are important to the economies of all three cities, and a loss of any service would have a negative impact on travelers and businesses. In addition to maintaining the current flights at ROC and HPN, Schumer asked that Southwest commit to maintaining the current number of flights that Southwest and AirTran together service at Buffalo Niagara International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.
Access to frequent and convenient air service is vital to the continued economic viability of any region, especially those of New York State. The economies of communities across New York are undoubtedly grounded in the ability of their airports to move both business and leisure travelers alike, which is why maintaining current flights and looking to add additional flights in the future is so important.
Schumer has led the charge to bring affordable air service to Upstate New York. Since 2001, Schumer has helped to bring JetBlue flights to Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester and Southwest flights to Albany.