STANDING AT ADIRONDACK REGIONAL AIRPORT, SCHUMER DOUBLES DOWN ON HIS EFFORT TO FIGHT HARMFUL CUTS TO ESSENTIAL AIR SERVICE PROGRAM; SENATOR SAYS FED FUNDING IS VITAL TO AIR SERVICE IN THE NORTH COUNTRY AND VOWS TO PREVENT HARMFUL CUTS FROM EVER TAKING-OFF
Admin Budget Seeks To Eliminate Funds That Are Critical To Air Service In Saranac Lake, Watertown, Massena, Ogdensburg And Many Other Airports
Schumer: Cuts To North Country’s Airports And Air Service Should Not Clear Senate Runway
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major push to protect important air service in Upstate New York, especially at Saranac Lake, Watertown, Massena and Ogdensburg International Airports from proposed cuts by the Administration. The recently released Administration's FY2018 budget proposes eliminating the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program that provides support for small, rural airports across the country. Schumer highlighted that the EAS program is critical to supporting air service in a number of communities, including in Franklin and Essex counties. Schumer added that this cut is reckless, harmful to the economy, counter-productive and could deeply impact the ability of Adirondack Regional Airport and many other North Country airports to remain operational for commercial flights, undermining the local economy and forcing resident to drive hours to the next closest airport.
“Let me be clear: these proposed cuts are wrong-headed and reckless,” said Senator Schumer. “They would be devastating for the North Country’s airports like Adirondack Regional Airport. Communities across the region rely on this program and the service these airports provide. Residents deserve to enjoy convenient, reliable air service in their own communities. It creates jobs, energizes our economy, and improves quality of life. I will fight tooth and nail to stop that from happening. Our job is to support families and grow communities. This unnecessary cut would do just the opposite.”
Schumer pointed to Adirondack Regional Airport’s success utilizing the federal program. The EAS provides more than $1.8 million per year in critical support for Cape Air’s roundtrip flights between Saranac Lake and Boston. These flights depart three times a day from the airport and service countless passengers. Adirondack Regional Airport served 9,258 passengers each year. Schumer explained that many regional airports have worked to decrease reliance on the EAS program, but that eliminating the federal support in 2018 could wipe out the service completely, delivering a massive blow to the North Country’s economy.
The threat is not limited to Adirondack Regional Airport, as EAS funding supports North Country Airports in Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, and Saranac Lake/Lake Placid. Massena International Airport, which recently chose Boutique Air to provide service this year, served 10,554 passengers in 2016. Ogdensburg International Airport served about 8,233 passengers through its EAS contract with Cape Air last year. Plattsburgh served 13,432 passengers through its EAS contract. Without the options at these airports, North Country residents would be forced to drive hours to the next closest airport – sometimes up to a couple hundred miles away.
Schumer was joined by, Assemblyman Billy Jones, Barb Rice, the Chair of the Franklin County Legislature; Sue Matton, Vice President of the Plattsburgh- North Country Chamber of Commerce and local business and community leaders.
"The funding provided through the EAS program is incredibly important to small, rural airports such as the Adirondack Regional Airport. As the only airport offering commercial air service in the Adirondack Park it is an intrinsic part of the transportation infrastructure in the region. The airport provides jobs, a means of access for second home owners, tele-commuters, and tourists resulting in a significant impact on the local economies. Without EAS funding the future of this important regional asset would be in serious jeopardy,” said Barb Rice Chair of the Franklin County Legislature.
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 in to 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. Without EAS, there would likely be no scheduled air service to and from many of these airports, forcing residents to travel long distances to access air service and delivering a devastating blow to job creation efforts.
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