Massena airline debated after decision

Boutique Air was chosen Monday for another two-year contract as Massena’s Essential Air Service provider. (Photo — Christopher Lenney, Watertown Daily Times)

MASSENA — Not everybody in the audience agreed with Monday’s decision by the Massena Town Council to recommend Boutique Air for another two-year contract as Massena’s Essential Air Service provider.

Officials from Boutique Air, Cape Air and SkyWest Airlines had made presentations to the board last week. A fourth airline also vying for the Essential Air Service contract, Silver Airways, declined to give a presentation to the board.

Boutique Air’s proposal for Massena includes three daily nonstop round-trip flights to Boston, as it currently provides. Cape Air proposed two options: three round trips daily to Albany and Boston, or three round trips daily to Boston nonstop.

SkyWest proposed flights to international airports in Chicago and Washington, D.C., on 50-passenger CR-J200 jets. The Silver Airways submission included three options: 12 weekly round trips between Ogdensburg and Boston; 12 weekly round trips between Massena and Boston; and 18 weekly round trips to Boston from Massena and Ogdensburg.

Dale MacPherson told board members Monday that he was in favor of Boutique Air’s proposals until he heard what SkyWest could offer. But Councilman Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said the current presidential administration was looking at Essential Air Service. He said, if seats weren’t filled on the 50-passenger jets, the federal Department of Transportation, which oversees the EAS program, might believe it wasn’t working successfully.

Dr. S. Serabian said she preferred flights to Albany, but “suddenly the trip to Albany dried up.”

Cape Air had previously served as Massena’s Essential Air Service provider and offered flights to Albany. They were also initially offered by Boutique Air when that airline took over as Massena’s EAS provider. However, low numbers prompted the Massena Town Council to recommend scrapping the daily flights to Albany and Baltimore in favor of three daily round trips to Boston.

“I think Cape served Massena faithfully for five years. I want to go to Albany. A lot of people go to Albany on business. People from the (St. Regis Mohawk) tribe go to Albany on business,” she said.

Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said Albany had been eliminated because of poor connectivity options for travelers.

“That was the main reason why we switched,” he said.

He suggested that Ogdensburg pick an airline that could fly to Albany as it considers its choices for EAS service. However, the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and Ogdensburg City Council have already thrown their support behind SkyWest, which said its proposal was good only if it was able to serve both Massena and Ogdensburg.

“You brought up Ogdensburg. I don’t see how you can tell Ogdensburg to pick an airline. Obviously there’s a relationship problem there,” Carol Pulley said. “Let’s take care of our people here. Ogdensburg has no interest in what Massena does. We have to do what’s best for us.”