SARANAC LAKE - Cape Air has proposed offering daily flights between the Adirondack Regional Airport and the New York City area year-round, not just during the summer months - on top of its flights between here and Boston.
The Hyannis, Mass.-based company was the only airline to submit a bid for the Lake Clear airport's federal Essential Air Service contract by the Oct. 30 deadline, according to A.J. Muldoon of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Aviation Analysis.
Cape Air currently has a $1.3 million federal subsidy that it uses to provide three daily flights between Lake Clear and Boston's Logan International Airport using nine-seat Cessna 402 planes. The airline has served the local airport since February 2008 and has increased passenger counts at the facility from 8,119 that year to 11,809 last year.
In a meeting last month with town of Harrietstown officials, who run Adirondack Regional, the company proposed swapping out an additional unsubsidized summer flight it has provided to Boston each of the last three years with a daily round-trip flight to White Plains in Westchester County. Andrew Bonney, Cape Air's vice president for planning, said at the time he thought the prospect of getting an additional subsidized flight was unlikely.
However, the airline ultimately asked for a fourth subsidized round-trip flight, which it would use to provide daily round-trip service to White Plains throughout the year.
"Doing it ourselves (without the subsidy) would be a fallback plan," Bonney told the Enterprise Tuesday. "As part of the Essential Air Service program, we'd be able to provide year-round, consistent service that would benefit the economy of the Adirondack region. So that's why, together with community leaders, we decided to propose year-round New York service in addition to the three flights to Boston."
Major regional employers recently signed onto an effort by Saranac Lake residents Todd Smith and Lee Keet to get a subsidized flight to White Plains in Westchester County. Adirondack Health, North Country Community College, Paul Smith's College, Trudeau Institute, The Wild Center and others have asked local officials to ask DOT for the additional flight.
Whether it will happen remains to be seen. U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said last week he would be surprised if a subsidized fourth flight was added to the Lake Clear EAS contract.
The federal bid Cape Air submitted has two subsidy proposals, each of which would be for either a two-year term or a four-year term. The company says it would prefer a four-year contract.
Under Option A, Cape Air would continue to provide three daily flights between Lake Clear and Boston for a $1,891,456 annual subsidy each of the next two years. It's asking for $1,832,064 annually over a four-year contract.
Under Option B, the airline would continue the same Lake Clear-Boston service and add one-flight-a-day service between Lake Clear and White Plains. For that, it wants $2,662,802 each of the next two years or $2,579,190 annually under a four-year deal.
Cape Air says the Lake Clear-White Plains service would be modeled on its successful EAS service between Lebanon, N.H., and White Plains. Since that service started in 2010, it has grown from 3,245 passengers to 7,114 last year, according to documents the company submitted with its proposal. The airline would provide complimentary transportation between the White Plains airport and midtown Manhattan using a Cape Air van, a ride of about 75 minutes.
The company's EAS proposal also says it would continue marketing and promoting the Lake Clear airport and Saranac Lake using local media outlets, websites and social media, and community outreach.
It also plans to locate a ticket office in downtown Saranac Lake "to increase local visibility and provide better community service."
Asked about the fact that his company is the only bidder, Bonney only said, "We've worked really hard to provide the Adirondacks with great air service, and we'd love to continue to do that."
DOT officials have sent Cape Air's proposal to local officials for their review. The agency is asking them to submit their comments by Dec. 4.
"We will also review the proposal, consider the community's comments when we receive them, and then submit our recommended decision to the Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs," Muldoon said.
Cape Air's current contract expires at the end of February.