By DAN HEATH
PLATTSBURGH — PenAir was welcomed to Plattsburgh International Airport Monday afternoon, especially with news that it would create local jobs.
The airline is scheduled to start service between Plattsburgh and Logan International Airport in Boston on June 15.
"We're very excited to be here," said PenAir Chief Operating Officer Dave Hall.
EAST COAST BASE
He said Plattsburgh will be the airline's base of operations for the East Coast, with 16 employees here to start.
The three planes it uses for service from Boston to Plattsburgh and from Bar Harbor to Presque Isle in Maine will be stored and maintained in leased hangar space at Plattsburgh International.
PenAir will initially offer 12 round-trip flights a week to and from Plattsburgh: two each weekday and one each on Saturday and Sunday. That is expected to increase to 18 flights a week on Oct. 10.
LINKS TO AIRLINES
PenAir has inter-line ticket agreements with a number of major airlines, including Delta, U.S. Airways, United and American. That allows passengers to get tickets and bags cleared through to a final destination when they purchase their tickets.
Passengers are allowed one piece of checked baggage free, with a charge of $25 for a second bag and $50 for a third.
The airline will use 34-seat Saab aircraft with pressurized cabins, flight attendant service and a restroom. That is similar to the aircraft used by Colgan Air, which has provided Essential Air Service between Plattsburgh and Boston since June 2010. Colgan's parent company, Pinnacle Airlines, decided to exit the Boston market last fall but was required to continue to provide flights until a new airline started that service.
A PLACE TO GROW
Hall said the U.S. Department of Transportation approached PenAir about taking over those routes because operations at the two airlines were similar. He said the company studied the matter for several months and decided the opportunity to expand in markets without competition was too good to pass up.
"We think it will be easier and more beneficial to us to grow our company down here," Hall said.
They will assess possible service expansion, including additional destinations, later this year, he said.
The airline was chosen in March by DOT to provide Essential Air Service. Under the terms of that agreement, PenAir will receive an annual subsidy of $2,685,207 for the first six months. That will decrease to $2,470,834 per year for the following 18 months.
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said PenAir is the latest evolution in service at Plattsburgh International.
"We certainly have had enormous initial success at this airport," he said.
He said carriers realize the potential of a U.S. airport has with the Montreal market and that the chamber and its team continue to meet with a number of other airlines.
"There is not an airline or charter airline in this country we have not yet met with at least once," Douglas said.
The arrival of PenAir comes on the heels of the Direct Air Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the Pinnacle Air Chapter 11 filing.
"Turbulence is part of the airline industry," Douglas said. "What doesn't change is the power of this market."
Clinton County Legislator Bob Heins, chair of its Airport Committee, said he believes this will be the start of a beautiful friendship. He said that unlike Colgan Air, PenAir offers truly wants to serve the Plattsburgh market.
The interline ticket agreements are a key part of what he believes will be very successful.
"This is a service that once you get to Boston you can go anywhere in the world," Heins said.
Monday's event was twice postponed, first from Friday to Monday and then from 3 p.m. Monday to 4:15 after Colgan canceled flights from Logan. After the event, Deputy County Administrator Rodney Brown said that has become more and more of a problem as Colgan winds down its service.
PenAir will actually send off its first Plattsburgh flight on June 14 at the request of Colgan.
The airline flew the first of its three new aircraft to Plattsburgh for the event. Also on hand were Cecil Nelson Jr., chief pilot for East Coast operations, and Anna Nelson, manager of in-flight serivces for East Coast operations. They are married and have purchased a home in the City of Plattsburgh and are already enjoying the region.
"The community is very friendly and welcoming," Mr. Nelson said. "The people are all very welcoming."
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