July 15--PLATTSBURGH -- Early returns on Colgan Air's operations at Plattsburgh International Airport are encouraging.
Dot Chaplin, manager of human resources and labor relations for Colgan, told the Plattsburgh Noon Rotary Club Wednesday that projections of passengers flying out of Plattsburgh are about double of what they expected so far.
"We had projected that there would be 13,000 passengers a year flying out of Plattsburgh, but as of today we are on pace to have about 25,000 passengers," Chaplin said.
"We are absolutely thrilled with our numbers in Plattsburgh."
Colgan began service at Plattsburgh International on June 23, offering daily flights to Boston and back.
The airline won a two-year contract with the federal government to provide Essential Air Service for the region.
Colgan flies 34-passenger aircraft with a toilet and flight attendant. They fly three times a day during the week and twice a day on weekends.
Colgan was supported for the Essential Air Service contract by the Clinton County Legislature over Cape Air in a controversial decision last February.
Cape Air had served the airport, which opened in 2007, for the past two years, utilizing nine-seat aircraft.
The community was split between Colgan and Cape Air, but legislators eventually chose Colgan, citing the opportunity for more growth with the larger aircraft.
Chaplin said the community has been supportive of Colgan's operations, which is critical to their success.
"Communities that do best in air service are communities that support the airport, and this community has been great so far," Chaplin said.
Colgan offers one-way tickets to Boston for as little as $52. Passengers can connect in Boston to points west and other destinations using Colgan's parent company, US Airways or Star Alliance partners Continental Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada, Lufthansa and Swiss Air.
Chaplin said passengers enjoy the connecting service.
"This provides one-stop check-in. They don't have to leave the secure area once they are in, and they can easily connect elsewhere."
Dan Pelletier, the station manager for Colgan at Plattsburgh International, said the airline is studying where passengers are flying from and to.
"We are doing this market study to see where we can make an improvement on services," Pelletier said.
When asked if Colgan would consider adding service to the New York City area, Chaplin said the company would look into it.
"I don't know if we have any plans right now for that, but we can investigate it," she said.
"We are open to suggestions and new ideas."
Chaplin added that Colgan wants to assess the market carefully before making any decisions.
"Plattsburgh has been great and we've had a great start, but we want to get our feet under ourselves and see how it goes," she said.
"We don't want to grow too fast."
Clinton County Legislator Robert Heins (R-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh) who chairs the county's Airport Committee, said responses he's received so far have been positive for Colgan.
"People like the connections and the flight schedule," Heins, who supported Cape Air, said.
"I know I backed Cape Air, but at this point I think we are in good shape with Colgan."
Colgan Air is connected to the Pinnacle flight that crashed in Buffalo in 2009 claiming 34 lives.
Chaplin was asked what steps the airline has taken to ensure another accident does not occur.
"The crash haunts each and everyone of us every day, and every day we are trying to make it safer," she said.
The airline has implemented new fatigue policies for pilots and other safety measures since the crash, Chaplin said.
"It was a tragedy and it makes us sick, but as an airline it makes us stronger and work harder every single day."
E-mail Joe LoTemplio at: firstname.lastname@example.org