STANDING AT WATERTOWN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, SCHUMER WILL DOUBLE DOWN ON HIS EFFORT TO FIGHT HARMFUL CUTS TO ESSENTIAL AIR SERVICE PROGRAM; SENATOR SAYS FED FUNDING IS VITAL TO AIR SERVICE IN WATERTOWN & REST OF NORTH COUNTRY AND WILL VOW TO FIGHT HARMFUL CUTS FROM EVER TAKING-OFF
Newly Released Admin Budget Seeks to Eliminate Funds that are Critical to Air Service in 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 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 Jefferson St. Lawrence and Lewis counties. Schumer added that this cut is reckless, harmful to the economy, counter-productive and could deeply impact the ability of Watertown International 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.
“These proposed cuts are wrong-headed and reckless,” said Senator Schumer. “They would be devastating for the North Country’s airports. 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. If the administration has its way, all of that would be wiped away with the stroke of a pen. 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 Watertown International Airport’s success utilizing the federal program. The EAS provides nearly $2 million dollars per year in critical support for twice-daily American Airlines flights from Watertown to Philadelphia, serving nearly 35,000 passengers each year. Although Watertown International and American have worked to decrease reliance on the EAS program over the years, officials say it is still necessary to maintain service. Eliminating the federal support in 2018 could wipe out the service completely, delivering a massive blow to the North Country’s economy, Schumer said.
The threat is not limited to Watertown, as EAS funding supports North Country Airports in Massena, Ogdensburg, Plattsburgh, 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 and Saranac Lake/Lake Placid served 9,547 passengers through their EAS contracts. 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 has long advocated for Watertown and other airports who receive funding from EAS. In February Schumer announced that Boutique Air would serve as the new essential air service provider in Massena. The flights from Massena would go direct to Baltimore and Albany and allow for travelers in the North Country to connect to other major cities. Schumer spent years advocating for the continued service from Watertown to Philadelphia and helped deliver funding to expand the runway for larger American flights to takeoff. Finally in 2015 Senator Schemer announced that Cape Air would receive $10.2 million over four years for continued service from Ogdensburg International Airport.
Schumer was joined by Watertown International Airport Manager Grant Sussey and local officials from across the North Country.
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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