Essential Air Service brings new options to Plattsburgh airport

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. There will soon be some new options if you fly out of Plattsburgh's airport. Hoping to fly to Boston? How about D.C.? Soon you might be able to do that more easily from PBG.

If you want to fly to Boston out of Plattsburgh right now, you might be taking PenAir. It has 12 flights a week, but Alaska-based carrier's two-year contract is ending in June. Don't worry though, as one airline takes off, another one is landing, and it's a big name you might recognize. "On the plane it will say 'United Express.' I think that makes a difference for some people," said Rodney Brown, the Deputy Administrator for Clinton County.

SkyWest Airlines, a smaller branch of United Airlines, is bidding for a spot, but not to fly to Boston. It is slated to fly from Plattsburgh to Dulles International Airport -- serving the Washington D.C. Area. It's a nonstop flight that local officials say people have been asking for. "D.C. as a destination was favored by almost a two to one margin," Brown said.

And it's not the only airline jockeying for a spot at the terminal. Other proposals are from smaller airlines, pitching flights to Boston and North Carolina. "They've received six proposals for flights out of Plattsburgh, which is twice as many as we've ever received," Brown said.

It's possible because of a government program that started back in the 1970s called the Essential Air Service. It's a federally-subsidized program that pays for airlines to fly out of smaller airports like Plattsburgh so that they can compete. "It's going to make it much more convenient for people to book, and less expensive as well," Brown said.

SkyWest is asking for $3.3 million a year, but if the bid is accepted, Clinton County won't be footing it. It will all be paid for by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

As for passengers -- we're told your tickets will be about a hundred bucks. And if you fly United, you can avoid the hassle of booking multiple tickets for a longer trip, and you won't have to pick up your bags between layovers.

"First and foremost, they want to see ease on connectivity for ease of connections. They want a seamless travel experience," said Plattsburgh airport manager Chris Kraig.

The winning bids are expected by mid-February.

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