Stewart Airport Finally Goes International
Real Estate In-Depth | September 2017
NEW WINDSOR—The long-held belief by many government officials and business leaders that Stewart Airport could finally be a key driver of economic growth for Orange County and the entire Hudson Valley region may finally be coming to pass.
Spirits soared in February when it was announced that Norwegian Airlines would offer low-cost transatlantic flights from Stewart International Airport to Belfast, Northern Ireland, Dublin and Shannon in Ireland and Edinburgh, Scotland beginning this past June. By all reports, the first international air service in years at the Orange County-based airport has been a rousing success. In May, USGlobal Airways reported it planned to lease a fleet of 767s and launch full-service flights in the future from Stewart to destinations such as Paris, Barcelona, and Tel Aviv, pending approval from the FAA and the DOT. The carrier is currently leasing space at Stewart Airport from a tenant Atlantic Aviation.
In addition, Allegiant, which already has domestic air service at Stewart, recently reported it would begin twice weekly flights to Orlando and Punta Gorda, FL beginning in November. At present, Allegiant, JetBlue Airways, American Airlines and Delta Connection are the domestic carriers at Stewart International Airport.
At the time of the Norwegian announcement, then Port Authority Executive Director Ed Foye said, “This new service is a great milestone for Stewart International Airport. Connectivity to new destinations is vital for our airport to realize further growth and remain competitive.” Stewart served more than 275,000 passengers in 2016, but projections for 2017 are about 400,000 passengers with as many as 700,000 in 2018.
Ed Harrison, general manager of Stewart International Airport, told Real Estate In-Depth that discussions began about three years ago with Norwegian Airlines, but negotiations began to heat up about a year-and-a-half ago when executives with the airline traveled to Stewart Airport. He noted that Stewart was competing with other locations and the Port Authority put together a package that stressed the airport’s strong demographics and proximity to New York City. A key facet of the package to Norwegian was bus service (Stewart Airport Express) offered by Coach USA from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to and from Stewart International Airport for $20 that is timed specifically to coordinate with Norwegian passenger arrivals and departures from Stewart.
The bus service has been a rousing success. Harrison noted that the Port Authority expects the bus service that began in June will have serviced 25,000 passengers by sometime during the month of September 2017.
“The Port Authority has been investing around $200 million in (Stewart) airport upgrades,” Harrison said. Despite the Great Recession and the downturn in air travel that had taken place, he stressed that the Port Authority “still has a long-term view and is optimistic about the future here in Orange County and at Stewart Airport.”
Harrison said that the Port Authority overcame many hurdles to land Norwegian and since its launch in June has proven that Stewart was a great choice for the carrier. At present, Norwegian is averaging approximately 90% capacity for all its flights. Currently the airline is flying daily to Dublin and Edinburgh and offers three flights a week to Bergen, Norway and to Shannon and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
“It is the first time in the long history of this airport that we’ve had scheduled international service here,” Harrison said. “That is an historic moment for Stewart.”
He said international passengers are coming to Stewart from New York City and Westchester County from the south and from the Albany area to the north.
“Norwegian is delighted with their loads,” he said Norwegian will be announcing in September what their schedule will look like next summer at Stewart he noted that the Port Authority has learned that Norwegian has been exploring adding some locations at the airport.
“They know that the market here is growing and they are delighted that Legoland is being built a half hour away,” Harrison added. “Legoland tells them they expect 30% of their visitors to be coming in from Europe. So that is just an incredible opportunity for Orange County.”
International travelers already know and frequent Woodbury Common and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and will no doubt be trying their luck at the Resorts World Catskills casino beginning next March.
“So not only are we serving the New York metropolitan area, but folks are looking to stay here three, four, five days in a week in taking advantage of all of the opportunities the traveling public want to see,” he added. “It is really an exciting moment for Stewart International Airport and Orange County.”
Harrison said that the Port Authority is marketing Stewart to other domestic and international carriers, but at present does not have any new or expanded service offerings to report.
He noted that there is “a buzz” about Stewart International Airport, with publications such as the New York Times and the Telegraph in London, as well as major airline and travel trade publications, taking notice of the airport’s promise.
A key facet at Stewart that has already been a key driver for the Orange County economy has been its cargo operations. So far this year, cargo handling through July was 10,830 tons, which is trending 1% higher than during the same period in 2016. In 2016, the airport handled 22,837 tons.