New York’s lesser-known airport suffers a big blow from Frontier Airlines
Despite $220 million in improvements over the years, New York's Stewart International Airport (SWF) is about to lose one of its three airlines.
Frontier Airlines filed plans over the weekend to drop service to SWF on July 2, as first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed by a carrier spokesperson.
The Denver-based discounter has had a rocky history with service to Stewart, which is roughly 70 miles northwest of Manhattan. Frontier originally entered the market in October 2021 with flights to Miami, Orlando and Tampa. It later expanded its route portfolio to include Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
However, the airline has been quietly paring back service on a route-by-route basis over the past few months, leaving just Orlando left as of April 2023. Now, the airline is calling it quits on the market, closing its station there entirely.
"We periodically review and update our routes based on demand, seasonality, and other factors. We value our partnership with New York Stewart International Airport and will continue to evaluate a potential return at some point in the future," airline spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz shared in a statement.
Locals looking for Frontier flights will now need to trek to LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP) or Bradley International Airport (BDL) to fly with the airline.
As Frontier looks to cut unprofitable routes, the big losers are SWF; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages and oversees the airport; and local politicians who've tried to prop the airport up in recent years.
Stewart isn’t one of the “Big 3” New York City-area airports most popular with the region’s travelers — that title goes to LGA, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). However, it has served as a lower-cost, more manageable alternative over the years.
Despite offering conveniently timed bus service to Manhattan, SWF hasn't really taken off as a replacement for LGA, JFK or EWR. The Port Authority has tried to increase the airport's relevance, but it continues to be most popular with locals living nearby who would prefer avoiding the larger gateways closer to New York City.
Since the Port Authority acquired the airport in November 2007, it has invested more than $220 million in facility improvements. This includes a recently completed $37 million terminal expansion that saw the opening of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection station to support new air service and accommodate additional international travelers.
The new federal inspection station added 20,000 square feet of space to the existing terminal, allowing CBP to efficiently screen up to 400 international passengers per hour.
While the Port Authority thought that this would increase the facility's appeal to international airlines, Stewart's only international service is a daily nonstop to Reykjavik on Play Airlines, the ultra-low-cost budget carrier largely reminiscent of Wow Air, which collapsed in March 2019.
Allegiant Air will become the airport's sole domestic carrier once Frontier drops the market. Allegiant flies to Florida destinations Orlando/Sanford, Punta Gorda and St. Petersburg-Clearwater; it also flies to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, from Stewart.
In a statement shared with TPG, Charles Everett, aviation director for the Port Authority said that "through the Port Authority’s five-point strategic plan for SWF, which includes a new air carrier incentive program and a marketing campaign, we are encouraged by ongoing conversations with prospective air carriers and look forward to welcoming new service on Atlantic Airwaysthis summer. This month, the Port Authority is submitting a Small Community Air Service Development Grant Proposal to USDOT to secure funds to support launching new service between SWF and high-demand markets like Chicago, Charlotte and Washington, D.C. as part of our continued air service development efforts.”
Interestingly, New York's hometown carrier JetBlue Airways used to fly to Stewart. However, it pulled out of the airport at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, and it has no plans to return in the immediate future.
That said, it's not all bad news for Stewart. Atlantic Airways, the national carrier of the Faroe Islands, recently unveiled its first-ever route to the U.S., which will operate once weekly to Stewart from Vagar Airport (FAE) beginning on Aug. 22.
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