SARANAC LAKE - Cape Air has announced plans to provide a daily round-trip flight between the Westchester County Airport in White Plains and Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear this summer.
The service, set to take off June 26 and run six days a week through Labor Day, is designed to give local travelers access to the New York City market. Once they arrive at the White Plains airport, passengers will have the option of taking a luxury van to Midtown Manhattan for an extra $85.
The cost of the new service for now seems to be roughly double the rate to Boston, which Cape Air serves daily, year-round from Lake Clear. The White Plains service will be higher because it's not federally subsidized.
A Cape Air worker unloads luggage from one of the airline's nine-seat Cessna 402 airplanes from Boston at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear in April 2012.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The announcement of the White Plains flights comes a month after Cape Air was awarded a four-year, $1.8 million annual federal subsidy to continue providing three daily round-trip flights between Boston and Lake Clear using nine-seat Cessna 402 planes. The Hyannis, Mass.-based airline company also recently announced plans to locate a ticket office and regional call center in a downtown Saranac Lake store.
When Cape Air applied last year to renew its federal Essential Air Service subsidy to serve Adirondack Regional, it sought extra funds to add a daily round-trip to White Plains. The proposal was backed by a group of local residents, some of the area's largest employers and the region's state and federal politicians, but it wasn't picked by the U.S. Department of Transportation because it was seen as too costly and outside EAS' "essential" mandate.
In recent years, Cape Air has provided a fourth daily round-trip to and from Boston in summertime, without a subsidy, to meet demand. Now it will make that fourth flight go to White Plains instead.
Jacqueline Donohoo, Cape Air's Northeast marketing manager, said there's been a demand for service to the New York City market since the airline first started serving the Lake Clear airport in 2008.
"There's been a huge, I guess you could call it an outcry in the community, requesting service to New York, from both the public and private sectors," she said. "It's been something we've wanted to accomplish and begin, and now we have the privilege to do it."
"I think it's great, and I'm very interested to see how it works out," Adirondack Regional Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch told the Enterprise Wednesday. "Hopefully, it works out as good as everyone thinks it's going to, and I'd like to see them expand it to year-round service."
Hurwitch acknowledged a concern about losing the additional flight to Boston, but he said Cape Air's planes aren't full every flight in the summer.
While the service to White Plains was driven by Adirondackers' demand, Hurwitch is hopeful it will also bring visitors from New York City to the Adirondacks.
"That's what I see a big market for. If you look around town at tourist license plates, they're not coming from Massachusetts; they're coming from New York. I think a lot of it is going to open a new market for tourists to come up here, and even people who are already driving up here, it's going to be much more convenient for them."
Cape Air has been providing service to White Plains from other communities for about five years, according to Andrew Bonney, the company's vice president of planning. He said the Westchester County Airport provides "great access to the city without having to go through any of the three very congested airports in New York."
The ground transportation Cape Air will provide "will get you from the airport to Midtown Manhattan faster and more reliably than virtually any other option you've got," Bonney said. The additional charge for the van ride into the city will show up as an option when passengers buy their tickets.
Because the White Plains service is unsubsidized, tickets will be more expensive than the company's Boston-Lake Clear service. Bonney wasn't able to say off-hand Wednesday how much airfare will be, but he said it will vary. Fares will be lower in off-peak periods but higher around holidays, he said.
Using the booking system on Cape Air's website, the Enterprise reviewed the cost of round-trip service between Lake Clear and White Plains this summer and found airfare for an adult passenger ranged from $500 to $600. In comparison, a round-trip ticket from Lake Clear to Boston during the same period cost between $200 and $300.
Bonney described the Lake Clear-White Plains service this summer as a trial run. He said Cape Air will evaluate after the summer whether it would provide the service the following year.
"We're happy to try this, and we look forward to working with the community to ensure that we are providing them with the service that works for the Adirondacks," Bonney said.
In the six years since Cape Air took over service in Lake Clear, the number of passengers flying to and from the airport has increased substantially, from 8,119 in 2008 to 11,810 in 2012.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.