Historic is a word often associated with the rollout of new Port Authority facilities and services, whether it’s the redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport or construction of a brand-new Goethals Bridge.
Yesterday, history traveled north to Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, N.Y., as Norwegian Air announced it would begin a series of daily flights to Ireland and Scotland – truly putting the “international” in the airport’s name.
Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye and Ed Harrison, Stewart’s General Manager, applauded the Norwegian announcement as the start of a new era for the airport, which the Port Authority acquired in 2007.
“It’s not an overstatement to say this is an historic day for Stewart Airport,” Foye said. “This is an incredible achievement, and we thank our partners from Norwegian Air.” Harrison noted that, “with Norwegian Air’s nonstop transatlantic commercial flights, we are genuinely an international airport now.”
Norwegian’s daily schedule doesn’t launch until June, but the impact of its announcement was immediate. Within the first hour, Norwegian officials confirmed they had already booked 2,500 flights and that number soon jumped to 4,000, underscoring the public interest in international flights from Stewart.
It’s that potential that led to the Port Authority-Stewart Airport marriage a decade ago. Strategically located a little more than an hour north of New York City, the one-time Air Force base has proven to be an important asset in the Port Authority’s airport system. Through the end of 2016, the agency’s total investment of about $175 million in spending on the airport and customer service.
Huntley Lawrence, the Port Authority’s Director of Aviation, credited “a combination of our investments in aviation infrastructure and the hard work of the Airport Services Group” for many of the gains made at Stewart.
One of the largest employers in the Hudson Valley, Stewart has about 2,700 workers and generates $450 million in annual economic activity. With the addition of Norwegian Air routes, the estimated total economic impact is expected to result in the creation of a total of 230 jobs, $13 million in total wages and $36 million in overall economic activity.
Signs of growth and progress abound. Last year, Allegiant Airlines launched seasonal service from Stewart to Myrtle Beach and plans on adding flights this year, while expanding the flight season on both ends.
On the cargo side of the operations, the airport experienced an increase in tonnage handled at the airport of 23.7 percent in 2016, due primarily to a surge in shipments by FedEx. DHL is investing nearly a half-million dollars in renovations and will begin operations in the coming months, while adding 30 new jobs. The general aviation sector – the private, corporate and charter flights that make up the bulk of traffic at Stewart – is also posting solid growth.
“We may be a small airport,” Harrison said, “but now everyone can see our enormous potential.”