In Their Opinion...

Editorial: Airport still enormous asset

Plattsburgh International Airport continues to delight supporters and confound critics. Drive past there sometime, and you’ll be amazed at how many cars are jammed into that vast parking lot.

The lot is virtually full, many of the vehicles covered with snow and ice, betokening long-term stays. Undoubtedly, many travelers wanted to spend the holidays in the South and left their cars in the airport lot to do so.

What is particularly encouraging about the full parking lot is that it seems to dispel worries that arose when Allegiant chose to begin flying out of Burlington International Airport last fall.

We had gotten used to being the only practical choice for many Canadians — and local fliers — who wanted a fairly inexpensive, quick ride to Florida or South Carolina.

Air travel prices change daily, but for flights to Orlando and back, the cost on Allegiant is very close, flying either from Plattsburgh or Burlington. Either way, a round trip in February, as of last week, would cost around $250 to $300.

But, of course, it’s not just the price that seems attractive to prospective passengers. The flights are non-stop, meaning you don’t have to get off the plane in Detroit, or Pittsburgh, or Atlanta, and kill time or rush from one gate — or terminal — to another to find your connecting flight.

Get on in Plattsburgh and get off in Orlando about three hours later. There is no faster, easier way to get there.

Plattsburgh is still a closer choice than Burlington for most Quebecers, and parking fees are less expensive here.

We once did a count of cars on a randomly selected day at the Plattsburgh airport and found almost 800 vehicles there. On New Year’s Day, there were many more than that. And the airport is getting ready to expand the terminal, which points to even more activity.

Before the airport opened in 2007, some critics predicted an embarrassing outcome. Montreal travelers were targeted for a big percentage of the customers to use the airport — local fliers were not thought to be numerous enough to support as big an operation as had been provided. But the question was: Would Montrealers want to drive to Plattsburgh — an hour, plus a border examination — instead of flying out of Montreal itself?

The answer has been found in price and convenience. Cheap air fares and non-stop flights are a consistent draw. An hour drive has proven to be small price to pay for those real assets.

And even competition from Burlington doesn’t seem to have diminished Plattsburgh International’s success, although we will watch as the actual numbers come in.

Clinton County legislators were wise and far-sighted in the middle of the last decade to invest in this asset — and to support expansion again last year.

The benefits will only continue to grow.