End of the Line for Albany Airport's Link to LaGuardia?

Officials push to preserve nonstop service from Albany as expiration date looms for key FAA rule.


COLONIE - It's not a popular route, but nonstop service to LaGuardia Airport should be maintained if at all possible, say officials at Albany International Airport.

A Federal Aviation Administration rule that provides a dedicated number of openings at LaGuardia for smaller commuter aircraft is due to expire in January. But U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said on Tuesday that the FAA assured him it will make upstate service a priority.

The FAA wants airlines serving LaGuardia to use larger planes, so more passengers can be handled with the same number of flights. Flights between Albany and LaGuardia use small turboprop planes with 34 to 36 seats, travel agents say.

"It is essential to the upstate economy that cities, including the capital city of Albany, maintain their direct air links to the center of world commerce," said John O'Donnell, Albany County Airport Authority chief executive.

Unlike the other two New York City-area airports - Newark and Kennedy - LaGuardia is not a popular transfer point. The others offer transcontinental and international service. LaGuardia doesn't.

Just 6,850 people traveled be tween Albany and LaGuardia in 2005, down from 8,660 two years earlier, according to Albany airport figures.

New York City ranked the 45th most popular domestic destination for air travelers from Albany in 2005 - near Albuquerque, No. 44, and Charleston, S.C., No. 46.

"People would much rather go through other airports than through New York," said Jean Gagnon of Plaza Travel in Latham. And those going to Manhattan opt to take the train because it takes less time, she added.



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