Amazing article in Conde Nast featuring USGlobal Airways (courtesy of Carsmax and Benster):
Why New York's Stewart Airport May Be the Next Budget Air Travel Hub
by Barbara Peterson - May 19, 2017
Norwegian Air, for one, is betting on it.
If you’ve never heard of Stewart Airport, you’re not alone: the Hudson Valley airfield 60 miles north of Manhattan has long struggled to get on the radar of travelers. With only a smattering of short-haul flights to places like Orlando and Philadelphia, the airfield’s business has continued to slump, while the rest of New York City’s airports have boomed.
But that’s about to change. On June 15, Norwegian Air will launch non-stop flights from this obscure airfield to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be followed July 1 with new non-stops to Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Bergen, Norway—all with Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Norwegian may not have the international routes to itself, though. And the budget airline may be joined at Stewart within a year by a startup carrier called US Global Airways , which last week announced plans to lease a fleet of 767s and launch full-service flights from Stewart to places like Paris, Barcelona, and Tel Aviv, pending approval from the FAA and the DOT. (The carrier is actually a rebranding of Baltia Air Lines, whose plans to start scheduled flights has been stalled for years.)
As for city dwellers, the advantage is that they don’t have to drive an hour and half in bad traffic to JFK.
The debut of international service “is a significant opportunity for us,” says Ed Harrison, general manager of Stewart, who predicts that the airport will double its passenger volume as a result. In 2016, about 275,000 passengers flew through Stewart, a drop of 20 percent from five years ago—so the airport has plenty of room for growth. The airport is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has pumped $200 million into fixing up the Newburgh, New York-based facility since it took over ownership in 2007.
Stewart isn’t the only mid-size U.S. airport getting new low-cost service across the pond this year: Norwegian will also begin flights to Ireland and the U.K. from Hartford, Connecticut and Providence, Rhode Island. But unlike the latter two cities, which have their own significant population bases to support service, Stewart competes for passengers with a major international gateway: the mother of them all, JFK Airport, which last year handled nearly 60 million fliers. So, how to convince fliers with lots of choices to give Stewart a try?
First, there are those rock-bottom fares Norwegian is selling: The $65 teaser fares sold out fast, but a recent search showed there were still flights available to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland starting at $139 one-way in the peak month of July. And while the airport isn't accessibly by public transportation from New York City, Norwegian is working with Coach USA to offer an express airport bus link with the Port Authority Bus Terminal near Times Square, for $18.50 one-way, according to Harrison.
The airport also says it is sprucing up the terminal to live up to the higher expectations of transatlantic travelers. It still has a ways to go: Until recently, the airport didn’t even have a liquor license, and the food and beverage offerings consisted of a Quiznos sub shop before security and a modest café in the gate area. Harrison says that improvements are underway, and that a full-service restaurant and duty-free shops should be open in time for the first flights to Europe. “You will be able to order that pre-flight cocktail,” he promises.
Other airlines are circling Stewart now that Norwegian is taking the plunge, according to Harrison, and the few airlines currently serving it—Allegiant, American, Delta and JetBlue—may expand domestic service out of there as the infrastructure improves. More foreign lines could come in too, as the cost of operating there is far lower than that of JFK or Newark.
“It’s very accessible to the region around it,” says John Lampl , a longtime British Airways official who is now vice president of communications at US Global , the new airline waiting for DOT and FAA approval. He actually sees it as a more convenient option for some area residents, pointing out the airport offers inexpensive parking (around $10 a day) and easy road access to a large population in New Jersey, western Connecticut, and New York’s Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties. And for city dwellers, he says, “the advantage is that they don’t have to drive an hour and half in bad traffic to JFK.” (One could argue that another advantage is just that Stewart isn't JFK.)
Stewart also has virtually no problems with delays, as it has the third-longest runway in the country thanks to its origins as a military base , and it lacks the air traffic congestion that plagues Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK.
But then there’s the “Stewart, who?” problem: namely that many, even those who consider themselves New Yorkers, don’t even know the Newburgh airfield even exists. There’s speculation that a first step may include renaming and re-branding it to sound more like a New York airport, and less like an outpost in the boondocks. What will the new name be? Only time will tell.
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