Community Needs Airport To Succeed

Every community aspiring to thrive needs a convenient airport. We need ours, and we need it to succeed.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, who gets this, told The Post-Journal on July 23 that “the sky is the limit for the Jamestown airport.”

He’s right.

Yet does the new commercial-air service at our airport, reported July 23, allow us to reach the sky as well as we need to?

With appreciation to those who worked hard to bring this service about, the answer is “up in the air.”

The best service for our airport is on a major airline to a hub airport of the major airline. We’ve always had this, even with all the ups and downs in our air service.

A major airline brings the advantages it marshals. Flying to a major airline’s hub maximizes the convenient connections and the likelihood that passengers will need two flights, not three, to reach their destinations.

For us, the major-airline hub options – some better than others – include American Eagle to Philadelphia or Charlotte, Delta Connection to Detroit, and United Express to Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare, or Newark. Some of those are a ways away, yet many small Western cities have flights of similar distances.

The service, whatever it is, needs to be reliable, frequent enough to meet the Jamestown market’s needs, and priced competitively with service from Erie and Buffalo.

After all, travelers happily avoid the cost – in time, money, and hassle – of driving to, and parking at, the Erie and Buffalo airports, when they’re better off using our airport, which is nearby and has free parking. Unless you live in far northern or far western Chautauqua County, getting to our airport is easier than getting to Erie or Buffalo. Especially in the winter.

Yet the newly announced service at our airport isn’t on a major airline, and the connecting airport – Pittsburgh – hasn’t been a hub since USAirways, now American, moved its hub to Philadelphia years ago. This may make passengers less likely than before to use our airport.

So the new airline needs to be especially conscious of reliability, frequency, and competitive prices, particularly because our airport needs a certain passenger count for the federal Essential Air Service program to continue.

One of our challenges is to prevent non-major-airline, non-hub service from leading to a drop in passenger count that, in turn, leads to a loss of the Essential Air Service program, and therefore of commercial-air service, at our airport.

This would play right into the hands of people – including some local people – who seek that very result. If they succeed, we’ll have a hard time getting our commercial-air service back.

The Post-Journal might do well to take up the cause. Just as Congressman Amo Houghton, Chautauqua County legislator Al Jones, and a cub reporter – whom this newspaper fully backed and who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer – teamed up to trumpet relentlessly and successfully the cause of finishing Interstate 86 west of Chautauqua Lake, this newspaper could be the leading, relentless voice for our airport’s success.

Meanwhile, no one should tell us the service will improve when the passenger count goes up. That has always been backward. The passenger count will go up when the service improves.

West Ellicott resident Randy Elf was The Post-Journal reporter who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.