Monday, February 12, 2018

Port Authority to Vote on $30 Million Expansion of Stewart International Airport (KSWF): Project would upgrade facilities in hopes of boosting international arrivals

A parking lot at Stewart Airport in Orange County, N.Y. 

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will meet this week to vote on a $30 million expansion of Stewart International Airport, a project aimed at increasing international arrivals at the facility 60 miles north of New York City.

Passenger numbers at the airport, nestled in the mountains near Newburgh, rose more than 60% last year to almost 450,000 people, fueled by an increase in budget flights to Europe, according to the Port Authority.

The expansion proposal includes a new dedicated arrivals area, known as a federal inspection station, for international passengers. Currently, the airport lacks a dedicated area to process overseas passengers. So when trans-Atlantic flights land, airport staff pull out an accordion wall and quarantine the arrivals hall and baggage claim section of the terminal.

Meanwhile, domestic passengers must pick up luggage at their airline’s ticket counter.

“It makes us look pretty unprofessional,” said Louis Heimbach, chairman of the Stewart Airport Commission, an advisory body. “And it just isn’t tenable in the long run to continue operating the way it is.”

Commissioners of the Port Authority, which owns the airport, will vote on the proposal at a board meeting Thursday. They will also vote on a controversial proposal to rename the facility.

“A permanent new federal inspection station at Stewart Airport will build on its recent success and support its potential to grow flight activity and passenger volume,” a Port Authority spokesman said Monday. “It will further provide an inviting gateway to the Mid-Hudson Valley region, New York City and the metropolitan area.”

The Port Authority previously approved a project to build a new federal inspection facility at Stewart in 2011. But that plan was shelved as passenger numbers failed to recover after two now-defunct low-cost domestic carriers, Skybus Airlines Inc. and AirTran Airways Inc., ceased operations at Stewart.

Between 2011 and 2016, arriving and departing passengers fell 33% to 275,000 passengers, according to the Port Authority.

Bjoern Kjos, chief executive officer of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA.

Last year’s surge in passengers was driven by Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA. In June, the budget carrier launched direct routes to destinations in northern Europe including Scotland and Ireland.

During the seven months through the end of last year, the airline carried 141,000 passengers to and from Stewart, according to the Port Authority, accounting for almost a third of the total.

This year, a spokeswoman for the airline said, Norwegian will reduce its flights to Edinburgh to four days a week, while increasing its service to Dublin to two flights a day.

In December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested renaming the facility New York International Airport at Stewart Field, which he said would better reflect its proximity to the city.

But the proposal drew opposition from the Stewart family, which donated the land for the airport during the 1930s. In response, Mr. Cuomo said he is open to suggestions and will leave it to the Port Authority and the airport to decide.

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