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"Small airports get — and get ready for — international service"


Thursday, April 27, 2017


Small airports get — and get ready for — international service

By Harriet Baskas



To accommodate the new international customers, Bradley International Airport added a branch of the pay-per-use Escape Lounge.

In the past, the biggest and busiest U.S. airports had the market for international air service all to themselves.


Now smaller airports, such as Bradley International, near Hartford, Conn.; T.F. Green Airport, near Providence, R.I.; and Stewart International Airport, in New York’s Hudson Valley; have snagged some direct flights to Europe and a potentially profitable slice of the trans-Atlantic air service pie.


Getting — and keeping — new international service has spurred improvements at these small airports, as they invest cash incentives, add amenities and spruce up facilities.


                                Bradley International Airport added a duty-free shop for international travelers.


Bradley bulks up 


When Aer Lingus began year-round service between Dublin and Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, Conn., in September 2016, it had been eight years since the nation’s 54th busiest airport could boast a direct international flight. (Northwest canceled non-stop flights between BDL and Amsterdam in 2008, when fuel prices spiked and the economy stumbled).


Bradley, which is about 110 miles from Boston’s Logan Airport and about 130 miles to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, gets its second international route staring June 17, when the fast-growing Norwegian Air, a European discount carrier, begins direct service between to Edinburgh, Scotland.


To help convince Aer Lingus, and then Norwegian, to take a chance on adding service at Bradley, airport and local officials offered financial incentives, an increasingly common tool among smaller airports competing for service, and promised to beef up facilities inside the terminal.


The airport’s gates and ticket counters were already sized right, with common-use equipment at the ticket counters, said Kevin Dillon, Bradley Airport’s executive director, but to accommodate the new international customers, the airport added a branch of the pay-per-use Escape Lounge and a new restaurant — Phillips Seafood — which made sure to have Irish beers on the menu. The Two Roads Brewing Company is about to open a tap room featuring Connecticut-made craft beers as well.


Bradley also added a duty-free shop for international travelers and reports that in addition to whiskey and perfume, international passengers are buying lots of college-branded clothing, chocolate and roll-your-own tobacco.


Dillon said the airport is also spending time promoting the region’s business and tourism opportunities in Europe and educating potential visitors about how the airport’s location near Hartford allows access to Boston, other parts of New England, and New York.


T. F. Green Airport is currently expanding its international arrival facility, with the goal of having enhancements in place for the kickoff Norwegian flights in June 2017


Prepping in Providence


During June and July, Norwegian Air will kick off the first-ever year-round European routes from T.F. Green (PVD) in Warwick, R.I., the country’s 64th busiest airport in 2015.


PVD’s current international service includes TACV, which flies year-round to Cabo Verde, and Azores Airline, which flies seasonally from PVD to Ponta Delgada, Azores.


Service from PVD to Edinburgh, Scotland, begins June 16; to Cork, Ireland, on July 1; to Belfast and Dublin on July 2; and to Shannon, Ireland, on July 3.


To secure the five new routes, PVD matched “a voluminous amount of route analysis” said airport spokeswoman Patti Goldstein, “together with robust and outstanding community support,” which included “the same marketing funds that we offer to other airlines.”


A statement announcing the Norwegian service noted that the Federal Aviation Administration had invested about $110 million in upgrading T.F. Green and expanding the airport’s runways to better accommodate international flights. Goldstein said the airport is currently expanding its international arrival facility, with the goal of having enhancements in place for the kickoff of the Norwegian flights.


Stewart International Airport just finished razing a World War II vintage hanger to make room for more overnight parking for aircraft.


Sprucing up Stewart International Airport


Stewart International Airport, located about 70 miles north of New York City in New Windsor, gets it first scheduled international service with Norwegian Air’s daily flights to Edinburgh starting June 15.


Flights from Stewart (SWF) to Dublin and Belfast begin July 1, and flights to both Shannon, Ireland, and Bergen, Norway, kick off on July 2. Frequency for each service will vary by season.


To get ready, Stewart International, ranked as the 206th busiest U.S. airport in 2015, just finished razing a World War II vintage hanger to make room for more overnight parking for aircraft.


Inside the terminal, concessions and amenities are being upgraded, said Edmond Harrison, general manager of SWF, which is operated by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.


“We’re getting currency exchange, duty-free shopping and a liquor license, which we don’t have now but will have when the first flight starts on June 15,” he said.


Harrison also said the duty-free shelves will be stocked with products from area breweries, wineries and distilleries and the gift shops will be filled with everything from West Point sweatshirts (the U.S. military academy is 15 miles from the airport) to typical New York City souvenirs.


Two airport hotels (a Homewood Suites and a Courtyard by Marriott) are refurbishing facilities in advance of the new international travelers, said Harrison, and Hudson Valley tourism groups are gearing up to let visitors know about opportunities to visit nearby attractions such as West Point, the Culinary Institute of America and the Woodbury Commons outlet shopping center, which draws over 12 million visitors a year.


And for those international visitors landing at Stewart International who want to head straight for the Big Apple, starting June 15 there will be scheduled Coach USA service, with Wi-Fi and in-seat power, to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.


All these upgrades won’t be just for the benefit of international fliers.


The Norwegian flights will bring the critical mass of passengers Stewart airport concessionaires need to make service investments worthwhile.


“So now, whether you’re flying Norwegian, JetBlue, American, Allegiant or Delta Connection,” said Harrison, “You’ll be able to have a cocktail before your flight.”


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