Oct. 8--MASSENA -- They're out there. Now the St. Lawrence Valley Air Task Force, armed with promising study data, needs to convince air carriers to get them.
Innova Aviation Consulting showed an audience of about 20 mostly task force members that the Massena International Airport is tapping only about 5 percent of the potential market Friday.
"I think the significant point is that we now have a specific number," said Barney C. Parrella, consultant for Maryland-based Innova. "There is definitely a big enough pool (of travelers) here to justify further exploration of creating sustainable air service."
The initial study indicates Massena International is capable of supporting the 100,000 round-trips taken by travelers in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties as well as Canadian border towns each year. But, it loses about 95 percent of users to larger alternatives in Montreal, Quebec; Burlington, Vt., and Syracuse. Based on a comparison with similar-sized markets in similar regions, it should be boarding about 113,976 passengers, the study determined. Currently, about 5,587 passengers board in Massena.
While Massena travelers cannot hope for larger jets or non-stop service to airports that don't serve as hubs for major airlines soon, several regional air service arrangements through more carriers could mean more options, Mr. Parrella said. The arrangements could mean one-stop service to many locations depending on where local travelers want to go and which carriers can accommodate them.
A second phase of the study to be funded by a $400,000 grant should answer those questions.
"We have to figure out the compatibility of the service in the markets involved," Mr. Parrella said. "You can quantify the size of the market, but you need to establish where the people are going."
That data, expected from Innova in spring 2006 can then be used to pitch Massena International to more carriers. The study also may pave the way for a regional airline proposed by Massena businessman Edward J. Kaneb Jr.
Mesa Air, a U.S. Airways affiliate, currently departs from Massena three times a day with stops in Ogdensburg, Watertown and Pittsburgh, where connecting flights can be made. Mesa receives $1,757,834 over two years in U.S. Department of Transportation Essential Air Service funding which subsidizes service at the three rural airports.
One goal of the studies is to make Massena an independent, self-sustainable market, according to task force Co-Chairwoman Patricia R. Tubbs.
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When the three-year effort is finished, more than $750,000 of federal and local cash and in-kind services could be spent to make the airport a regional base for international and national travelers.
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