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Lawmaker champions effort to bring top airlines back to Stewart International Airport

State Assemblyman AJ Beephan, of southern Dutchess County, wants to break a painful cycle of airlines beginning operations at Stewart International Airport and then leaving.

Ben Nandy

Oct 18, 2023, 10:21 PM

Updated 274 days ago

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A Hudson Valley lawmaker is taking the lead in trying to tempt top airlines back to an Orange County airport that - by all accounts - is well located, yet inconvenient.
State Assemblyman AJ Beephan, of southern Dutchess County, wants to break a painful cycle of airlines beginning operations at Stewart International Airport to much fanfare, taking advantage of initial short-term financial incentives and then leaving after two years.
Beephan wrote to five major airlines -- American, Delta, JetBlue, United and Southwest -- to either come, or come back to Stewart Airport.
The freshman assemblyman is trying to sell the airlines on "the renowned Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, abundant historical landmarks and some of New York's finest cultural establishments."
He is also trying to establish long-term, dependable air service for Hudson Valley residents who currently have to travel for more than an hour to a New York City area airport for more travel options and better deals.
Beephan also plans to meet with officials with the Port Authority, who manages the airport, to discuss ideas for longer-term incentives for air carriers.
"I think they definitely need to reassess their fee structures," he said in a Zoom interview Wednesday. "I completely understand they need to make sure the airport stays profitable, or relatively break even, but there needs to be some kind of incentive at play here."
Local air traveler Chris Creagh was at Stewart Airport Wednesday morning, only to return his rental car.
When he travels, he typically uses Newark Airport and then rents a car to return to his home in Orange County.
Creagh misses when Norwegian Airlines had regular flights in and out of SWF, and the shuttle to New York City was waiting for passengers when they landed.
Norwegian pulled out of Stewart in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking shape.
"They flew to Bergen. The flew to Edinburgh. They flew to Dublin. It was fantastic," he said. "There was no problem getting down into the city, and the planes were packed."
SWF currently just offers limited service to Florida and service to Europe through Iceland.
"It's a shame," business traveler Alan Seidman said, when reached by phone Wednesday.
Seidman, a former county legislator who sat on a committee that advised the airport, is becoming impatient with the Port Authority for not landing a big carrier at an airport that is fully equipped in a community full of eager air travelers.
"Even if they're connectors through Detroit, Atlanta or Chicago, it makes sense that that airport that has so much money invested in infrastructure was actually used," he said.
News 12 reached out to the Port Authority to learn more about its plans to attract larger, more dependable carriers.
"As part of our five-point strategic plan for the airport, we continue to aggressively court airlines from around the world with incentives, in addition to marketing the airport's current flight options to local residents through digital and out-of-home advertising." spokesperson Cheryl Ann Alibiez wrote in an email.


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