Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stewart International Airport (KSWF), Orange County, New York: Norwegian Air Takes Flight • Airport is attractive not only because it is cheap, but because passengers move quickly through immigration and baggage claim

The Wall Street Journal 
By Paul Berger
Sept. 19, 2017 3:06 p.m. ET

Stewart International Airport is on track to record a 45% increase in passengers this year reversing a decade of decline.

The former U.S. Air Force Base, which sits on 2,700 acres surrounded by mountains 60 miles north of New York City, is reviving thanks largely to Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, which launched international flights from Stewart in June.

The 400,000 people expected through the airport in 2017 is less than half those seen during Stewart’s brief heyday a decade ago when more than 900,000 people used the airport.

But it is a sign that the airport, just west of Newburgh, is on the right path.

Norwegian Air’s Chief Executive Bjørn Kjos flew into Stewart for the first time on Monday evening to visit staff in the region. He said Norwegian is considering adding extra flights to existing routes from Stewart as well as expanding to new destinations next year. “I think we will see more flights coming into this airport,” Mr. Kjos said.

He added that Stewart is attractive not only because it is cheap, but because passengers move quickly through immigration and the baggage claim area, often in under 30 minutes, where they transfer to a $20 bus ride to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.

Monthly passenger numbers reached 56,000 in July and 51,000 in August, just over double the same periods last year. They were the first full months that Norwegian operated routes to Edinburgh, Scotland, Dublin and Shannon in Ireland, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Bergen, Norway.

Waiting outside the airport on Monday evening for the bus home to New York City, Liz Vink and James Sweeney said they paid about $300 each for round-trip tickets to Dublin, less than half what they would have paid to travel from a major New York City airport.

Ms. Vink said she wasn’t fazed by the bus ride to New York City, which takes about 90 minutes. “I’ve had bad experiences getting to JFK anyway,” she said. “You can spend an hour on the subway.”

Norwegian says its one-way fares to Europe averaged between $150 and $170 this summer. The airline, which carried about 52,000 people during July and August, says that its aircraft have, on average, been 95% full.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns Stewart, says 254,000 people used the airport through the end of August, while 275,000 passengers used it in all of 2016.

The Port Authority took over Stewart from a British company, National Express Group PLC, in 2007. The agency paid $78.5 million for a 93-year lease on the airport. Its aim was to make Stewart a reliever airport for the agency’s three heavily-congested New York area hubs, LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports, which each handle tens of millions of passengers per year.

Stewart served a record 910,000 passengers in 2007, triple the number it served in 2006. But the airport struggled after the recession of 2008 hit the airline industry.

Within a few years, two of the heaviest users of Stewart ceased operations at the airport. The low-cost carrier Skybus Airlines Inc. went out of business and AirTran Airways Inc. was bought by Southwest Airlines Co.

Over the past decade, the Port Authority has invested about $180 million to improve Stewart, including the rehabilitation and modernization of the airport’s two runways.

American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. operate services from Stewart. Domestic passenger numbers have been boosted by Allegiant Travel Co.’s Allegiant Air, which has increased the number of seats it operates out of Stewart to 76,000 this year from 34,000 in 2014.

The airport’s manager, Ed Harrison, said he expects to serve up to 500,000 passengers next year.

Original article can be found here ➤

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