Ogdensburg eyes airport shuttle for Canadians

A SkyWest Bombardier CRJ700 sits on the tarmac at Ogdensburg International Airport. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is hoping to take advantage of a Canadian travel loophole to attract business to its airport.

While Canadian travelers are right now prohibited from entering the United States by land, they can enter by air.

The OBPA hopes to secure a deal with a helicopter operator to ferry Canadian snow birds to Ogdensburg, where they can catch a flight south or pick up their vehicles, that had been shipped here ahead of them, for their journey south.

Similar schemes are being operated between Montreal and Plattsburgh and Kingston, Ontario, and Niagara Falls.

The difference in an operation in Ogdenburg is that the flights have to be chartered rather than scheduled commercial flights, OBPA Executive Director Steven J. Lawrence said.

If the flights are scheduled, the airport would need to provide facilities for Customs and Border Patrol to screen passengers. That would include interview rooms, holding rooms, conference rooms and other facilities, Mr. Lawrence said. The OBPA has been in preliminary discussions with a helicopter tour company that could take three or four travelers at a time, he said.

A company to transport cars and RVs would also need to be secured to complete the operation, he said.

The window of opportunity could be short. Once the border is open to travelers, the operation would not be necessary.

Upgrading the airport to be able to accommodate Customs and Border Patrol in the future, is worth considering no matter the situation, Mr. Lawrence said.

There is always the possibility of another closure, he said.

Airport manager Stephanie L. Saracco said they would need to work out a system to get passengers safely from the helicopter landing area and into the terminal building.

“It is just logistics,” she said.

The operation in Niagara Falls is doing four to six trips per day, Ms. Saracco said.

The pandemic has hit the Ogdensburg airport hard.

In September of 2020, Allegiant Air, a low-cost carrier that had been providing flights to Florida from Ogdensburg since 2016, ceased operations.

In March, the U.S. Department of Transportation stopped funding flights to Chicago by SkyWest Airlines, the OBPA’s Essential Air Service carrier.

SkyWest now flies only to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

St. Lawrence/Franklin County Editor

Slowly self-propelled. Two-time cancer survivor. Nearly 30-year newspaper veteran.

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