The only international commercial flight at Burlington International Airport won't be offered this year due to low boardings and logistical challenges.
Porter Airlines will not run its skier-friendly seasonal service into Burlington from Toronto, BTV aviation director Gene Richards told Seven Days Wednesday.
The flights typically start in mid-December and run for eight to 10 weeks. Richards characterized the suspension as a one-year break and said he hoped Porter would be back next winter.
So is the "International" in the airport's name still legit given the suspension of the flight service to Canada?
Yes, said Richards. "That’s not what makes us international."
The moniker predated the Toronto flights, he said. Burlington remains an international port of entry for sporadic private and charter flights from other nations. When needed, U.S. Customs and Border Protection sets up in the Heritage Aviation building, across a runway from the main terminal, Richards said.
Porter passengers make up less than 1 percent of total traffic into Burlington, he said. The suspension should not affect the overall increase in BTV's boardings, which are running about 17 percent higher this year over last, Richards said. "Our numbers are fantastic," he boasted.
In response to a request for comment, Porter Airlines spokesman Brad Cicero emailed a statement saying that problems hiring a ground crew to help load and unload planes at BTV were the main reason for the decision.
"Despite significant efforts to find solutions by everyone involved, ground handling resources to support our flights in Burlington are currently unavailable," Cicero wrote. "We are working to resolve these issues with all parties, with a goal to have flights resume next winter. "
The service was hailed as a potential boost to Vermont winter tourism when it began in 2011.
But the route's passenger count was always limited and has declined sharply from its peak in the winter of 2012-2013, BTV statistics show. That winter, 2,035 passengers left BTV on Porter Airlines. Last season, the number was 683.
Ground crew availability was only one of the issues driving the decision, according to Richards. The airline's schedule has varied, and last year's Tuesday and Saturday operations didn't appeal to consumers, Richards said. He added that he tried to convince Porter to operate Friday and Sunday service this year.