WASHINGTON, DC – Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao to urge her to provide the necessary waivers and approvals that could allow for a new air service provider to land at Chautauqua County’s Jamestown Airport.
According to a media release sent out Tuesday morning, the senators said access to commercial air service, when reliable, can be a critical resource for Chautauqua County and that the Department of Transportation should issue the necessary waivers as part of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure every opportunity for a new carrier to land in Jamestown.
The EAS program has helped to support Chautauqua County air service for years, but recently the service provided to the region has been inadequate, and as a result has thrown future support from this federal program into jeopardy. The Senator’s urged USDOT to reconsider the decision to terminate EAS eligibility in Jamestown, in hopes that in partnership with local officials, a new and more reliable carrier could be found to help serve the region.
The Senator’s also acknowledged the importance of ensuring that federal support is only used on carriers that actually deliver the service they promise, and as a result are also calling for iron clad commitments on service reliability, affordability, and frequency from the next airline that could serve the region.
“Access to commercial air service, when safe and reliable, through the EAS program is a lifeline for rural communities across the United States, including Chautauqua County, and is vital to continued economic development and quality of life,” the Senators wrote. “Terminating EAS waiver eligibility for the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport will deprive residents and businesses in Chautauqua County from having local access to commercial air travel, which is important to the region’s economic development and tourism industry. Other industries, including manufacturing and medical services rely on commercial air service to connect to the global marketplace.”
In Jamestown, there are over 940 established businesses with nearly 15,000 employees and an annual payroll of nearly $500 million dollars, and – according to Schumer and Gillibrand along with local officials – commercial air service to the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport is a key component of the local and regional economy. Over the past few months, the airport has seen a surge of flights by nearly 50 percent, and that number is expected to increase with the revitalization of Downtown Jamestown and increased tourism as a result of the opening of the National Comedy Center this summer.
In 1978, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) despite concerns raised at that time regarding the effect it would have on air service to small communities. The EAS program was established to guarantee that communities served by air carriers prior to deregulation would continue to have commercial air service, preventing the loss of a vital mode of transportation that would result in economic harm to rural communities. Access to adequate air service has become imperative to the success of our local economies. However, rural communities have struggled to retain or attract commercial airline service. In New York State, six airports depend on this critical program: Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport, Massena International Airport, Ogdensburg International Airport, Plattsburgh International Airport, Adirondack Regional Airport, and Watertown International Airport.