Lift Off To Letdown

The airline carrier for the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport will be taking off – for good – later this year.

On Tuesday, county officials announced Silver Airways Corp, which is the carrier for United Airlines, has notified the United States Department of Transportation that they intend to terminate airline services from Jamestown around May 15. The airline announced they will be terminating flights from several northeast regional airports. The company cited pilot shortages, reduced passenger enplanement numbers and United Airlines’ decision to reduce its flights out of Cleveland, which is the hub serving Bradford and Jamestown, as the reasons for departing from the airport. Earlier this month, it was announced Cleveland’s Hopkins International Airport would no longer be a hub for United Airlines. Silver Airways has been offering one-way flights between Jamestown and Cleveland for $49.

During a Public Facilities Committee meeting Tuesday, County Executive Vince Horrigan said Silver Airways leaving will have a significant impact on the county airport, but county officials will move forward by finding a new carrier and a new destination.

“We’ll move through this. It’s another one of those little challenges, but it opens up other opportunities for us,” Horrigan said. “I think the most important thing is to stay positive. We need for people to stay with our airport and support our airport.”

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who visited the airport last month, has been a supporter of flights out of Jamestown and is helping county officials find a new airline service carrier. Horrigan said county officials have asked Schumer’s staff to contact the U.S. Department of Transportation to immediately publish a request for proposal for a new carrier to bid on airline service for Jamestown. He said they have discussed different hub options, which is required under the Essential Airline Service, a Federal Aviation Administration program, and their early conversations with Schumer’s staff are encouraging.

“Schumer’s office is pretty big behind this; he’s the right person to have,” Horrigan said.

During the same county committee meeting, Sam Arcadipane, airport manager, said flight numbers have increased since last year at this time, noting that more than 100 combined arrivals and departures took place last week.

“Our flight numbers are way up,” he said, adding that the average daily flight number last year averaged between eight to 12 per day. “Everything’s been paying off with some of the branding we’ve been doing.”

As the county officials explore all options, Horrigan encourages residents and visitors to continue using the Jamestown Airport.

“I encourage all area residents to continue flying out of Jamestown so that we can keep our passenger count as high as possible for new carriers to respond favorably to the pending new (request for proposal),” Horrigan said. “Currently, Silver Airways is offering one-way, nonstop flights between Jamestown and Cleveland for the bargain price of $49. Once we finalize the new (Essential Airline Service) carrier we will be sure to minimize any disruption to the flying public.”

According to the county’s website – www.co.chautauqua.ny.us/pages/default.aspx – Silver Airways is an airline within the United States that operates around 190 scheduled flights per day. The airline has gates in Florida, the Bahamas, Georgia, Montana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Alabama, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. The company’s headquarters is located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In January, Schumer spoke at the airport to call on the federal Department of Transportation to grant the airport a one-year waiver to maintain its $1.9 million in funding from the Essential Air Service program.

Katie Atkins, The Post-Journal’s county reporter, contributed to this story.