Big Dreams of Plattsburgh's Uppity Airport May Cause Nightmares at BTV | Off Message

Big Dreams of Plattsburgh's Uppity Airport May Cause Nightmares at BTV

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Plattsburgh's "international" airport (PBG) remains much smaller than Burlington's, but economic-development officials on the New York side of Lake Champlain sure do dream big.

Direct flights from PBG to Caribbean vacation spots represent "the lowest-hanging fruit" potentially within the airport's reach, North County Chamber of Commerce chief Garry Douglas recently told the New York Times. And that might just be the first step in giving substantive meaning to the "international" part of the airport's title, Douglas added. 

The Times reported his suggestion that it might be feasible in the longer term to board flights from Plattsburgh to destinations such as London, Paris and Tel Aviv. That would be quite a leap from the handful of domestic destinations PBG currently serves.

But PBG clearly does expect to handle many more passengers in the coming years than the 150,000 or so who boarded flights there in 2012. A remote parking site with 1500 spaces — in addition to the 2000 already available — is scheduled to open in 2016, the Times said. That's the same year when Plattsburgh's terminal is due to complete an expansion that will triple its size.

PBG's ambitions hinge almost entirely on attracting additional traffic from Quebec. More than 80 percent of its passengers currently come from Canada — drawn in part perhaps by PBG's claim of being "Montreal's U.S. Airport."

BTV also relies significantly on travelers from north of the border. About 40 percent of its outward-bound passengers reside in Canada.

There's no mystery as to why an estimated five million Canadians drive to the United States annually in order to use American airports. Comparative pricing of airline tickets is the big reason; convenience may factor into the choice as well.

"Residents of suburban Montreal on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River, for example, live closer by car to the Plattsburgh airport than to Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport," the Times noted. For most of those fliers, PBG is also closer than BTV.

Citing a recent report by the Conference Board of Canada, the Times noted that flying to a U.S. destination from a Canadian airport is substantially more expensive than traveling to the same destination from within the United States. A ticket to a U.S. city from Canada that cost $200 would be priced at $140 if the traveler flew to the same destination from a U.S. airport, the study found. In addition, Canada imposes $81.13 in taxes and fees on a $200 ticket, while U.S. officials add $32.42 to the $140 fare.

Both PBG and BTV officials are no doubt praying that Canadian air travelers fail in their efforts to force a reduction in the taxes and fees their government slaps on plane tickets.

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