The Star-Herald

Maintaining air service despite COVID-19

While the airline industry continues to face significant challenges in the COVID-19 environment, Presque Isle International Airport is in the enviable position of having nonstop service to two large hubs.  This has not happened since the early 1990s and never with jet service.  

Last week United finalized its schedule for the month of December.  The schedule of arrivals and departures includes service to and from Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty. These two hubs afford those traveling through Presque Isle significantly improved connectivity and reliability.  However, it is still a reduced schedule and we do not have arrivals and departures for both hubs every day.  

With service directly to Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty airports, PQI has nonstop service to two out of its top three markets.  PQI’s top three markets prior to COVID-19 were Orlando, New York and Washington, D.C., in that order.  In addition, PQI is the only airport north of Portland that has nonstop service to New York.  Most passengers prefer nonstops because it significantly reduces their travel time.  

By adding a second large hub the airport’s connectivity has improved.  As a measure of the connectivity of a hub for PQI, we look at the number of passengers per day each way that can reach their final destination with a nonstop flight to the hub or only one stop at the hub.  For Washington Dulles, we have the potential for 456 passengers per day that can fly from Presque Isle, make a connection in Washington Dulles, and fly nonstop to their final destination.  For Newark Liberty this number is 456 passengers per day each way.  In the case of Orlando, there are direct flights to Orlando from both Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty.  

The more large hubs served by a local airport, the more reliable the service becomes.  First, a nonstop flight is always the most reliable option.  Most travelers prefer nonstop flights as there is less chance of loss of baggage or getting stuck at an intermediate stop due to weather or a mechanical situation.  

Second, by having service to two large hubs, PQI has an alternative should the weather at one airport not be optimum.  For example, if it is snowing in Newark and air traffic is being delayed, things might be running right on time in Washington, D.C.  

With one-stop service to so many destinations, the reliability improves to those markets as well.  For example, if you only have service to a hub that doesn’t have a good selection of connecting flights, many times it will require a double connection in which air travelers have to stop at two intermediate airports prior to arriving at their final destination.  Each time you have to make a connection, you run the risk of getting delayed due to weather or a mechanical difficulty.  In the case of Washington Dulles, it is a very reliable airport in its own right.  Since 2015, it has had a better on-time rate than any hub airport in the Northeast.  This includes Philadelphia, the metro New York airports and Boston.

As stated earlier, with our reduced schedule, we do not have nonstop service to both Washington Dulles and Newark Liberty every day.  So if you prefer to use one hub over another, you may need to be flexible in making your reservations.  In December you are more likely to get service through Dulles on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  The schedule is a bit different each week so go to United.com to look specifically at the days you are interested in.   

Scott Wardwell is airport director for Presque Isle International Airport. He can be reached at 764-2550 or via email at scottw@flypresqueisle.com.

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