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Cape Air officials give positive report to OBPA

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Air service through the Ogdensburg International Airport has really taken off.

Representatives of Cape Air, the Barnstable, Mass.-based airline that provides three flights a day through the airport, reported to the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority’s board of directors Monday.

“This is one of the real success stories in the Essential Air Service program,” said Andrew W. Bonney, Cape Air vice president for planning. “The program as a whole is really looking for successes right now.”

Since taking over air service in September 2008, Cape Air has seen increases in passengers boarding flights at Ogdensburg each month, Mr. Bonney said.

“When we interviewed four years ago, you were looking for someone to revive air service and make it reliable again,” he said. “We’ve got a pulse here now. What we’re doing here is working.”

Cape Air expects more than 5,000 passengers to board in Ogdensburg this year for the first time since federal airline deregulation took effect in 1978, attributing some of the increase to low fares.

“Our fares start at $52,” said Jacqueline B. Donohoo, Cape Air’s Northeast marketing manager. “That is certainly attractive, especially to Canadian passengers.”

Ms. Donohoo said Canadians accounted for 91 of about 400 boardings at the Ogdensburg airport last month. Cape Air is marketing airports in Ogdensburg and Massena to Canadian customers.

The authority’s board of directors is pushing to reach the 10,000 annual boardings required to qualify for an additional $1 million in Federal Aviation Administration airport improvement program money.

Cape Air provides three nine-seat flights a day from Ogdensburg to Albany and then Boston, then back to Albany and Ogdensburg. At that capacity, it would be impossible to reach the 10,000 mark.

“There is great ridership growth here, but you still have room to grow,” Mr. Bonney said, adding that as ridership grows in Ogdensburg, Cape Air would be willing to schedule additional flights.

“We’ve grown outside the Essential Air Service program elsewhere,” he said. “We’ve added an additional flight from Rutland, Vt. During the summer, we’ve also added a fourth and fifth flight at Saranac Lake.”

Ogdensburg would not be served as well by larger aircraft, Mr. Bonney said, because the flights’ frequency would decrease.

“Our niche is the high-frequency service,” he said. “It enhances the service and gives travelers more options and more connections.”

Mr. Bonney said a Cape Air ticket office in downtown Ogdensburg would be a good way to increase the air service’s visibility and increase passenger bookings.

“We wanted to open a city ticket office at the Eye Center site, but we have not been able to get traction with the owners,” he said. “It has taken much longer than we would like.

Ogdensburg’s air service also could be augmented as Cape Air slowly replaces its aging fleet of nine-seat Cessna 402s with a custom-made aircraft.

“Our new plane is going to be faster, so we could fly nonstop to bigger hubs,” Mr. Bonney said. “We could realistically do a direct flight from Ogdensburg to Boston.”

Mr. Bonney said the new aircraft won’t be delivered until 2016.

He also reported Cape Air was in good financial health.

“We’ve found a business model that works,” he said. “A lot of larger airlines are having trouble turning a profit. Our profits are small, but we’re financially stable.”

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