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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Ithaca Airport sets sights on upgrades amid record-low airfare

The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is undergoing initiatives to broaden its services and, should it receive a grant, upgrade its infrastructure. Meanwhile, airfare is at its lowest in almost a decade due to fluctuation in global oil prices.

The airport is currently competing for state funds in the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization competition. If the grant is approved, the airport will prioritize upgrading its infrastructure. Regardless of the competition, the airport is obtaining additional jet services — in the form of a 50-seat aircraft — through American Airlines to Philadelphia.

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo allocated $4 billion in state funds to LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, he announced a competition among upstate airports for another $200 million in state funds. Both Elmira Corning Regional Airport and Greater Rochester International Airport received $40 million, leaving a remainder of $120 million to be dispersed among selected upstate airports, said Mike Hall, Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport manager and partner of PFA Consulting, a civil engineering consulting company.

There are plans to use the potential state grant money for infrastructure and security improvements, both of which are outdated, said Michael Stamm, air service board chair, and  Airport Consultant Ewan Barr. The infrastructure, which is currently 25 years old, will be the main priority, Stamm said.

“We were looking at a variety of upgrades to the terminal,” Stamm said. “It looks modern from the outside, but it does need upgrades from the inside.”

Students at the college have complained about the airport’s ticket prices being unaffordable and consequently using the Syracuse Hancock International Airport. The airport staff does not have much control over these prices, as airfare is reliant on the price of oil, flight capacity, flight demand and various other economic factors, Barr said.

Airfare, in general, is more affordable than it was 10–15 years ago due to the price of oil, efficiency of air service and more capacity of aircraft, Barr said.

Despite this, freshman Kessy Dieudonné Sironel said that this year, traveling from Syracuse to the Dominican Republic was far cheaper than from Ithaca. The flight from Syracuse to the Dominican was $630, and Ithaca to the Dominican would have been $1,025, with the same Delta Air Lines, she said.

International flights are a primary source of revenue for the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, Hall said. He said prices have raised due to major airlines merging. Northwest Airlines joined Delta Air Lines, Continental Airlines joined United Airlines and US Airways joined American Airlines, he said. Regardless, he said prices are still lower than they have been in the past.

“The six major airlines became three airlines. During that, they cut back services,” Hall said. “Restricted seats means you have to charge more per seat because fewer seats are available.”

Freshman Ali Curcio also said that expenses and lack of desired flight destinations were why she chose the Syracuse airport over the Ithaca airport. The Syracuse airport, which she said is not as conveniently located, was cheaper for her than the Ithaca airport.

However, Curcio, a frequent flyer, said upgrades to the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport would be a great accommodation.

“It would make my life a lot easier than trying to figure out how to get to an airport that’s an hour away,” Curcio said. “This one’s only 10 minutes away.”

Falyn Stempler can be reached at fstempler@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @falstempler