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During Negotiations For CARES Act, Schumer Secured Over $1.7 Million For Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, Which Was Hard-Hit During COVID-19 Crisis; However, United Airlines Plans Cut All Service From Airport 

Schumer Says With Southern Tier Reopening, United’s Continued Service Is More Important Than Ever

Schumer: United Should Continue Ithaca Flights And Help Recovery in the Southern Tier Take Off

Following his delivery of over $1.7 million for Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (ITH) as part of the CARES Act, and after hearing that United Airlines is seeking to cease all flights to the regional airport, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged United to maintain current service levels to ITH.

The senator said that while he is grateful that United has met their service commitment to ITH so far, and recognizes that the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has severely impacted operations nationally, he feels it is critical for the recovery process for United to maintain Ithaca flights.  He also explained that because the Southern Tier region of New York was one of the first to reopen, the airport is seeing a substantial increase in the regional demand for air travel.

Schumer argued that cancelling service to ITH – even temporarily – could have a harmful effect on the airport and the regional economy, which is just now beginning the recovery process, after the peak of the COVID-19 crisis six weeks ago.

“As a gateway for business, family connection, and tourism, Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is vital to the economy of Ithaca and the entire Southern Tier,” said Senator Schumer. “United’s reliable service over the years has been integral to the success of the airport and is more important than ever as the Southern Tier reopens and begins the recovery process. That is why I am calling on United to reconsider their request to the Department of Transportation to cancel service to Ithaca and stick by the Southern Tier as we look to life after this stage of the crisis.”

“United Airlines service from Ithaca Tompkins International Airport to Washington, DC is a critical component in the economic recovery of upstate New York,” said Mike Hall, Director of the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport. “Cornell University, the largest employer in Central New York, is a major research institution with strong federal relationships that are enhanced by this route. Washington – Ithaca service directly supports Finger Lakes Tourism, including summer winery tours and winter skiing at Greek Peak Mountain Resort. After posting a load factor of 6% during month of April, this route is showing strong recovery as our economy reopens.  Load factors more than doubled in May and are expected to continue that trend throughout the summer months. We will continue to promote our partnership with United Airlines as we travel the airways to recovery, one step at a time, together.” 

ITH is currently the Southern Tier hub for United, serving as the gateway to Cayuga Lake and the Finger Lakes region, as well as Cornell University and Ithaca College. The airport connects people to more than 70 cities across the U.S. and nearly 40 destinations in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, and recently added two new gates to the passenger terminal to accommodate the growing number of travelers before the COVID-19 crisis began.

Senator Schumer’s letter to United Airlines can be found below:

Dear Mr. Kirby:

I write to you today regarding United Airlines’ request to temporarily suspend service to Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (ITH). In that regard, I ask that your company instead consider maintaining its current service level to ITH.

Firstly, I recognize the challenges of maintaining full flight schedules during the COVID-19 crisis so far and given the impact that this pandemic has had on airlines, I am grateful that United Airlines has met their service commitment to ITH so far. With the Southern Tier region of New York one of the first to reopen and resume normal life, the airport is seeing load factors rise substantially in comparison to the worst of the crisis just six weeks ago. For that reason, United’s appeal to USDOT to temporarily suspend service to Ithaca does not seem congruent with the reopening of regional activity.

During the drafting of the CARES Act, I secured provisions providing grants for industry’s worker payrolls and I also ensured that the industry would receive low-interest loans to cover other costs such as station rental fees and landing fees to airports, that were struggling just as much as airlines. Canceling service to airports such as ITH—even temporarily—could have a devastating effect on the airport and the community.

Due to the increased load factors, the effect this would have on travelers, and the significant impact that suspension of service would have on the airport, I strongly urge you to reconsider United Airlines’ decision to suspend service at ITH.

I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you on this matter. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.