We applaud Cape Air for planning to expand its passenger plane service to and from the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear.
The small, Massachusetts-based airline currently makes three round-trips a day between here and Boston year-round, subsidized by $1.3 million from the federal Essential Air Service program. In the busy summer months, Cape Air adds a fourth, unsubsidized daily round-trip.
Recently it asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to subsidize a fourth daily round-trip, this time between here and White Plains near New York City. From there, Cape Air would take passengers by van into Midtown Manhattan (about an hour and 15 minutes) for no extra charge.
Cape Air says the Lake Clear-White Plains service would be modeled on its successful EAS service between Lebanon, N.H., and White Plains. That service started with 3,245 passengers in 2010 and has grown to 7,114 last year.
It's now up to the U.S. DOT, which has more data than we do, to decide whether to pay for this White Plains service or stick with the three round-trips to Boston. No one else entered a bid.
Cape Air might also add a White Plains round-trip on its own, without an EAS subsidy. If the DOT agrees to fund one, too, that could mean five passenger flights a day in and out of Lake Clear.
Board members of the town of Harrietstown, which owns and runs the Adirondack Regional Airport, tentatively support the proposal but worry that White Plains flights will mess up the good thing Cape Air has going with Boston. That concern is understandable, but we think there's little need for alarm. Cape Air's numbers are strong enough to where they've almost outgrown what they're doing now. Since it started serving the local airport in February 2008, it has increased passenger counts from 8,119 that year to 11,809 last year. Flights are often full now, and prices have risen with demand. We think it's ready to grow.
As an added bonus, Cape Air plans to locate a ticket office in downtown Saranac Lake "to increase local visibility and provide better community service." We see this as an excellent development all around.
We're very glad this airline has seen enough success that it's ready to expand. We appreciate the service and would love to see more.