The pending loss of SkyWest air service to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. from Plattsburgh International Airport is a setback, but not a crippler.

SkyWest told Clinton County officials last week that they would be pulling out of Plattsburgh in the next 90 days. The news was surprising considering that the airline had done very well here since it began offering flights to Dulles in 2018.

But not surprising was the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic was the problem. The airline, like many others, was left with too few pilots, flight attendants and other staffers to continue the service.

SkyWest reportedly will pull out all of their Northeast operations, including from Ogdensburg International Airport in St. Lawrence County.

COVID-19 has damaged many businesses and industries, and the airline business has been hit especially hard. With the number of positive COVID cases still on the rise, it is unnerving to think what might happen in the future to air service.

But on the positive side, Plattsburgh International Airport is a gem that should attract the interest of a number of airlines.

The airport has done extremely well since it opened on the flight line of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base in the summer of 2007.

It has served as a popular place for the more than 3 million Canadians who live within an hour of here, who are looking for easy access to flights to Florida or other southern destinations.

Plattsburgh International is actually easier for many Montrealers to get to than Montreal-Trudeau International Airport on the West Island.

In normal times, the airport off Route 22 south of the City of Plattsburgh is jammed packed with hundreds of cars bearing Quebec license plates collecting snow as their owners winter in warmer climes.

There are have been more empty parking spaces since COVID arrived, but business is still pretty solid.

The airport remains an attractive option for Montreal residents, and should continue to be so in a post-COVID world. With the installation of a U.S. Customs port at the terminal, local officials were working on recruiting more international flights prior to the pandemic.

Flights to France and the Caribbean were high on the list and probably will remain so.

As for local daily flights, the Washington destination seemed to be more popular than direct flights to Boston that were offered prior to 2018.

Service to Dulles offered easier connections to points west than the Boston service did.

County Airport Committee Chairman Bobby Hall (D-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh) says he believes other airlines will be very interested in setting up shop at Plattsburgh International.

Boston and Philadelphia could be in the mix as destinations as could Washington again.

We'll know later this month, when bids for the federal Essential Air Service program are due, which airlines will want to come here.

And thank goodness for the EAS program, which pays airlines to serve underserved areas with less population, otherwise, we might not have any flights.

While it may be disappointing to hear of SkyWest's departure, the future should remain bright for the region's airport.

To quote North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas, "Onward and Upward!"

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