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Upon Hearing SkyWest Planned To Leave, Schumer Immediately Sprung To Action To Protect North Country Air Service

Senator Wrote Directly To Secretary Buttigieg Requesting USDOT To Prohibit Termination Of Essential Air Service Temporarily Until A New Carrier Is Found, And To Immediately Begin Work To Identify A New Carrier

Following his direct advocacy for Plattsburgh and Ogdensburg International Airports, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has heeded his call and today issued a Hold-In Order to prohibit SkyWest’s termination of Essential Air Service (EAS) temporarily. SkyWest will now be required to continue the current level of service until the conclusion of the EAS selection case.

“Cutting back Essential Air Service to the Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh airports is the wrong way to go for Northern New York. I am glad that USDOT has heeded my call to issue a Hold-In Order to temporarily maintain service while they swiftly work with local stakeholders to identify a new carrier to provide EAS to the Plattsburgh & Ogdensburg International Airports,” said Senator Schumer. “As the North Country continues to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the extended closure of the northern border, maintaining consistent and reliable air service to other hubs across the U.S. is essential to the region. I will keep fighting to ensure the North Country receives the reliable air service its community and businesses need to succeed.”  

Schumer has a long history of fighting to keep air service in Upstate New York. Senator Schumer pushed to include over $418 million in the American Rescue Plan to provide New York’s hard-hit airports the relief they desperately needed, including $1.1 million for Ogdensburg International Airport and over $2.1 million for Plattsburgh International Airport. Then, building on his advocacy, Schumer followed this relief by securing an additional investment of over $937 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act over five years, including over $5.1 million for Ogdensburg International Airport and over $7.63 million for Plattsburgh International Airport.

The EAS program was developed after the airline industry was deregulated in 1978. Deregulation gave airlines the freedom to decide which markets to serve and how much to charge for that service. This led to a scarcity of air service in many communities across the country where operating costs were higher and populations were smaller and less dense. The EAS program was put into place to guarantee air service to these underserved communities. EAS ensures commuter airlines across the country serve approximately 140 rural communities, including six communities in Upstate New York: Watertown, Jamestown, Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, and Saranac Lake/Lake Placid.

A copy of Schumer’s original letter to Transportation Secretary Buttigieg appears below:

Dear Secretary Buttigieg:

As you are aware, SkyWest Airlines will be terminating its Essential Air Services (EAS) at Ogdensburg International Airport (OGS) and Plattsburgh International Airport (PGB) by April 11, 2022. These airports offer critical services to Northern New York, and as such any interruption of service threatens the wellbeing of these communities. In light of this, I request that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) work swiftly to identify a new carrier to provide Essential Air Services to Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh, New York, to issue a Hold-In Order prohibiting SkyWest from terminating service at either airport until a new air carrier begins full EAS, and to meet with the airports regarding this matter.

Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh airports remain vital to connecting the North Country region of New York State to the nation, and both airports have shown promising growth throughout the years. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates over 300,000 passengers will travel through PLB by 2030, and OGS saw a record 22,000 passengers through its airport in 2019. These airports are indispensable assets to the economic growth of these communities, and connectivity to the world. However, as the nation is plagued with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline industry has struggled to cope with the various economic and workforce challenges associated with this novel crisis. Like many airports throughout the nation, travel through Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh airports have dramatically decreased, and air carriers such as SkyWest continue to struggle with labor shortages.

For these reasons, I call on the DOT to immediately work to find a new carrier for the Ogdensburg and Plattsburgh International Airports, and to issue a Hold-In Order to prevent any service disruptions until a new carrier is found. I also ask that you meet with the airport sponsors to inform them of and to collaborate on your efforts to find a new carrier. I appreciate your attention to this urgent matter.