With winter tourism suffering due to a lack of snow, you might think fewer people would be flying into Vermont. But officials at many regional airports say business is up.
Tom Anderson, CEO of Stowe Aviation, the company that manages Morrisville Stowe State Airport, says they’re seeing more traffic than ever. But he says that has less to do with weather and more to do with improved infrastructure and the recent addition of passenger service.
“We do know that the numbers are up pretty significantly over last year, probably in the 20 to 30 percent range,” says Anderson. “I would imagine that if we had a great snow year, we would even be seeing even more traffic.”
In December, Tradewind Aviation began offering four scheduled flights a week between Stowe and White Plains, New York. Anderson says those flights, which use nine-seat turbo prop planes, are often nearly full. And he believes there’s as much business travel to Stowe as flights tied to skiing and second homes.
The number of people flying in and out of Burlington from October through December was up 3 percent over last year, according to Gene Richards, director of aviation at Burlington International Airport.
Richards doesn’t have January numbers yet, but admits those will be decidedly worse – not because of the mild weather in Vermont, but because of what mother nature did outside the state, which he says often has a bigger impact on air travel.
Case in point: last month’s blizzard that brought much of the East coast to a standstill.
“Uck, it was the first time in three and a half years that I walked into the airport and there wasn’t one flying customer,” says Richards, “and that was like, whoa!”
On the upside, Richards says the mild weather this winter has meant big savings on plowing and more costly runway de-icing, a chemical treatment that he says can cost $40,000 an hour to apply.
Cape Air, the passenger airline that that provides daily flights to Lebanon and Rutland, has also benefited from the lack of snow.
Spokeswoman Trish Lorino says December and January ridership at both airports was up. “The mild weather actually worked out to our favor, where we didn’t have concerns for weather cancelations and weather delays," she says.
Lorino says the number of passengers flying between Rutland and Boston jumped 9 percent the last two months. She says passenger numbers between Lebanon and Boston were up slightly while travelers flying between Lebanon and White Plains, New York rose 15 percent.
Rick Dyment, manager of the Lebanon Municipal Airport, says that while passengers benefit from fewer cancelations, Lebanon’s airport benefits as well.
“When we get 10,000 enplanements a year – people leaving the airport on Cape Air – if we hit that 10,000 number, then two years after that we have about a million dollars in F.A. [Federal Aviation] entitlement money that we can use for certain improvements.”
Dyment says if too many flights get canceled and departures fall below 10,000 passengers a year, they get just 15 percent of those Federal Aviation funds.
Chris Beitzel manages Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport. While the mild winter has made things easier, he says when the next big storm does come, Rutland will be ready. Just last week the airport took delivery of a $700,000 state-of-the-art snow removal truck and sweeper, which he says will allow them to more efficiently clear runways and keep air traffic moving.