COLONIE - Fewer passengers boarded planes at Albany International Airport last year as one of the airport's regional carriers eliminated most of its flights here.
Boardings fell 0.4 percent to 1,550,402 from 1,556,796 in 2004. Commutair, a Plattsburgh-based regional carrier flying as Continental Connection, eliminated dozens of daily flights to smaller cities throughout the Northeast from its Albany hub, and passenger boardings tumbled to 31,078 from 93,692 a year earlier.
But other carriers - most notably Southwest Airlines - added flights, and the airport ended the year with a net loss of 6,394 passengers.
Airport spokesman Doug Myers said airport bookings for upcoming holiday periods, including spring break, are strong.
But the airport earlier this month also lost Independence Air, a low-fare carrier that shut down after heavy financial losses blamed in part on high fuel prices.
Airport and public officials are seeking to convince JetBlue, AirTran or another low-fare carrier to begin service at Albany, now that Independence Air's gates and ticket counter space are available. JetBlue will begin service in 10 cities this year, including Austin, Texas, and Richmond, Va., said David Neelman, JetBlue's chief executive officer. He declined to identify the other eight cities on Friday.
But both U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have been lobbying JetBlue on Albany's behalf.
Last year, Southwest continued to expand its share of the market at Albany, carrying 26.8 percent of all passengers, well ahead of second-place US Airways, with 19.9 percent. Delta ranked third at 15.2 percent, followed by United with 12.4 percent.
The airport had budgeted for a decline in passengers, and beat its own estimate by 402 passengers.
During the year, US Airways emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization after its acquisition by America West Airlines, and on Friday, UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines, got bankruptcy court approval of its reorganization plan and clearance to exit Chapter 11.
But two other carriers serving Albany, Northwest and Delta, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization during 2005.
As a result, airport officials say they're proceeding carefully with plans to expand the airport terminal and concourses.
Eric Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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