May 08, 2018

Senators Schumer And Gillibrand Call On Department Of Transportation To Give The Approvals Needed To Help Chautauqua County Land A New Air Service Provider

Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao to urge her to provide the necessary waivers and approvals that could allow for a new air service provider to land at Chautauqua County’s Jamestown Airport.  The Senators said access to commercial air service, when reliable, can be a critical resource for Chautauqua County and that the Department of Transportation should issue the necessary waivers as part of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure every opportunity for a new carrier to land in Jamestown. The EAS program has helped to support Chautauqua County air service for years, but recently the service provided to the region has been inadequate, and as a result has thrown future support from this federal program into jeopardy. The Senator’s urged USDOT to reconsider the decision to terminate EAS eligibility in Jamestown, in hopes that in partnership with local officials, a new and more reliable carrier could be found to help serve the region. The Senator’s also acknowledged the importance of ensuring that federal support is only used on carriers that actually deliver the service they promise, and as a result are also calling for iron clad commitments on service reliability, affordability, and frequency from the next airline that could serve the region.

“Access to commercial air service, when safe and reliable, through the EAS program is a lifeline for rural communities across the United States, including Chautauqua County, and is vital to continued economic development and quality of life,” the Senators wrote. “Terminating EAS waiver eligibility for the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport will deprive residents and businesses in Chautauqua County from having local access to commercial air travel, which is important to the region’s economic development and tourism industry.  Other industries, including manufacturing and medical services rely on commercial air service to connect to the global marketplace.” 

In Jamestown, there are over 940 established businesses with nearly 15,000 employees and an annual payroll of nearly $500 million dollars, and commercial air service to the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport is a key component of the local and regional economy. Over the past few months, the airport has seen a surge of flights by nearly 50%, and that number is expected to increase with the revitalization of Downtown Jamestown and increased tourism as a result of the opening of the National Comedy Center this summer.

In 1978, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) despite concerns raised at that time regarding the effect it would have on air service to small communities. The EAS program was established to guarantee that communities served by air carriers prior to deregulation would continue to have commercial air service, preventing the loss of a vital mode of transportation that would result in economic harm to rural communities. Access to adequate air service has become imperative to the success of our local economies. However, rural communities have struggled to retain or attract commercial airline service.  In New York State, six airports depend on this critical program: Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport, Massena International Airport, Ogdensburg International Airport, Plattsburgh International Airport, Adirondack Regional Airport, and Watertown International Airport.  

The full text of the Senators’ letter is available here and below:

The Honorable Elaine Chao

Secretary

Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Chao,

We are deeply concerned about the decision made by the Department of Transportation to terminate Essential Air Service (EAS) waiver eligibility for the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport in Jamestown, New York.  We strongly urge you to reverse this decision.

Access to commercial air service through the EAS program is a lifeline for rural communities across the United States, including Chautauqua County, and is vital to continued economic development and quality of life.  Terminating EAS waiver eligibility for the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport will deprive residents and businesses in Chautauqua County from having local access to commercial air travel, which is important to the region’s economic development and tourism industry.  Other industries, including manufacturing and medical services rely on commercial air service to connect to the global marketplace.  Additionally, the airport directly supports 146 jobs with an estimated $9.9 million in income. 

The DOT’s decision failed to address the local economic impacts this fatal decision would have on Jamestown’s local affairs. We disagree with DOT’s conclusion that it is “highly unlikely that the community would come into compliance in the future” in terms of addressing the metric numbers.  Jamestown has spent nearly $400 million dollars in public and private investments that benefits the town’s tourism and job’s industry that would help to improve those numbers. 

Specifically, there are over 940 established businesses in the 14701 zip code (Jamestown) with nearly 15,000 employees and an annual payroll of nearly $500 million dollars, and commercial air service to the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport is a key component of the local and regional economy.  Over the past few months, the airport has seen a surge of flights by nearly 50%, and that number is expected to increase with the revitalization of Downtown Jamestown and increased tourism as a result of the opening of the National Comedy Center this summer.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we hope you will reconsider this decision and ensure that the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport is able to obtain an EAS waiver this year.