Airlines to get fee break at Stewart Airport

August 15, 2008 7:29:17 AM PDT
Hoping to stem an exodus of airlines at a suburban airport targeted for growth, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said Thursday it would temporarily waive gate and landing fees at Stewart International Airport. The big discount, currently worth about $1 million over six months, comes after a tough summer at the Hudson Valley airport, about 50 miles north of New York City.

Airlines have cut flights nationwide this year due to high fuel costs. Stewart, which is still something of an experiment for many carriers, was among the earliest to see service trimmed.

AirTran Airways plans to stop flying to the airport in September. Skybus Airlines filed for bankruptcy and ceased flights in April. JetBlue and Delta also recently said they would cut some flights at Stewart but hoped the moves would be temporary.

Overall, the changes are expected to lead to a major drop-off in passengers. The Port Authority estimates 725,000 travelers will use Stewart this year, down from about 915,000 in 2007.

Port Authority officials want to take some of the financial pressure off Stewart's remaining airlines by waiving most fees at the airport for the next half-year.

"We know that this is a tough time," said Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward.

He said he remained bullish about the prospects for long-term growth at Stewart, which the Port Authority acquired last year.

Officials hope to build it into a regional hub, relieving congestion at Newark Liberty, Kennedy and LaGuardia.

The Port Authority plans to spend $500 million on improvements at the airport over the next 10 years.

"We are in this for the long haul," Ward said. Officials noted that passenger use of the airport was still running far ahead of 2006, when 310,000 people flew through Stewart.

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