MONTOURSVILLE, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Thursday morning, American Airlines announced they were permanently pulling service to Williamsport Regional Airport, effective immediately.
Now, it appears that move will be permanent and flyers in northcentral Pennsylvania may be without commercial service for the foreseeable future.
That service at Williamsport Regional Airport was grounded after American Airlines confirmed they were pulling out of the market permanently.
The airport’s executive director says it’s American’s latest attempt to elicit more COVID relief funding from Congress.
“This was a political decision made at high levels in American Airlines. It wasn’t a planning decision, it wasn’t based on what our market looks like, it was just based on what they wanted from Congress,” said Williamsport Regional Airport Executive Director Richard Howell.
It’s a swift turn from the optimism just three months ago when the airport debuted American’s inaugural flight to Charlotte. Howell says he’s disappointed they were never able to prove the route’s viability.
“It really looked like that that was going to be a successful city pairing for us. So, it’s very frustrating that we didn’t get the opportunity to prove that market,” Howell said.
While the airport and its businesses remain open, it could be some time before commercial service returns.
“It’s probably going to be a number of months before we see service. I mean optimistically, exceedingly optimistically, we might see something in April or May or something along that, but I think that’s probably more than likely it’ll be summer or fall,” said Howell.
But Chamber of Commerce President Jason Fink remains optimistic. He says traditionally lower travel rates in the first quarter of the year could give the region time to prepare for summer tourism associated with events like the Little League World Series.
“That should hopefully be able to provide us with enough time to be able to get the service back to the area. And, hopefully come second quarter, third quarter, we’ve got somebody else in here providing that air service again,” Fink said.
American Airlines said in a statement,
“This flight was initially suspended in October as we waited for PSP support, but is not a financially viable route for the foreseeable future; thus, we have made the difficult decision to cancel service indefinitely.”AMERICAN AIRLINES
But Fink says their enplanement data, which is above the national average, disproves that.
“We’ve got enough people who are already leaving the market that fly, that if we had good service, they would be utilizing the Williamsport Regional Airport,” Fink said.
Fink says it’s hard to quantify the dollar impact the stoppage of service has had on local businesses since early October but he and Howell both say the region remains committed to flying a commercial alternative as soon as possible.