Stewart Airport – The Airport that Could Change how we Travel

When you think about New York’s airports, New York/ Newburgh Stewart International probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Located 60 miles to the north of NYC in Orange County, Stewart Airport is small and remarkably quiet. With only 9 gates, its size, in terms of passenger count, is incomparable to that of JFK and EWR. The small airport could, however, be about to boom.

Before Norwegian’s arrival to the airport, Stewart Airport (SWF) handled only a dozen or so domestic flights everyday. With the arrival of Norwegian in mid-June, SWF has been connected to the world through flights to the UK and Scandinavia.

Stewarts only terminal is so small that it is is unidentifiable as an international airport

Why have Norwegian chosen Stewart?

For starters, Stewart’s landing fees are a lot less than that of New York’s major airports. Flying here costs Norwegian far less than flying into JFK (which has some of the highest fees in the world, I was told). The second reason is that being such a small airport, SWF can offer Norwegian a whole host of slots. With turnaround running smoothly, the plan is to unload passengers and cargo then load back up and depart 90 minutes later, thus reducing ground fees even more. These cheap fees that Norwegian are receiving don’t just mean that they make more of a profit at the end of the day, however. What it means is that transatlantic travel is now readily available to more people than ever before.

With only a small terminal, Stewart Airport isn’t your average international airport

Being so small, queues are almost non-existent and it is only a short walk before you’re out of the door and on your way into New York. After landing from Edinburgh, visiting the flight deck and being last off the aircraft, it only took me 30 minutes to be out the door and on my way. This is something New York’s major airports can’t beat.

Whilst visiting the airport last month, I was really impressed with the enthusiasm from Stewart’s staff to make a success out of Norwegian’s arrival. I met with General Manager Ed Harrison and COO Oscar Hollenbeck who told me all about the history of the airport and how they plan to build on what they now have to make Stewart a highly regarded airport with a large network of flights. I was told about expansion plans to accommodate more aircraft and ways in which they were working with new airlines to start flights from the airport. New initiatives are starting to support the increase in traffic such as the startup of the Stewart Airport Express Bus into the city. The bus is the only direct link Stewart has to the city but has been designed so that passengers never miss it. With a flexible schedule, the bus waits until the Norwegian flights have landed (even if delayed) and passengers are out of the airport until leaving. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children. Initiatives like these are what Stewart Airport are working so hard to develop as it is necessary in supporting the large increase in traffic.

Stewart Airport has a fascinating history, too. SWF was developed in the 1930s as a military base for the US army and is, still, home to some military operations. The airport was redeveloped in 2000 when it became the first US airport to be privatized. UK based National Express Group won a 99 year lease of the airport but sold it off to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who acquired the final 93 years of lease in 2007. In 2016 it was announced that Norwegian would be linking Stewart airport to Europe via UK bases in Scotland and Ireland and Bergen in Norway. In doing this, SWF has been linked to a vast network of locations on a global scale.

The military base at Stewart is home to a fleet of C-17s

Those who travel into SWF often overlook the surrounding areas of the airport and travel directly into New York. The Hudson Valley is home to the US Military Academy at West Point, the world famous shopping outlet at Woodbury Commons, which attracts a whopping 16 million visitors every year, the Culinary Institute of America and the home of President Franklin Roosevelt. While Stewart may be growing on the basis of being a New York airport, its surrounding areas have some hidden gems which will surely begin attracting more travelers through SWF.

Stewart is bigger, in size, than New York’s Newark Airport yet has a tiny amount of operations in comparison. For this reason, Stewart is a perfect airport for expansion. The plans that are in place include new international arrivals halls and, in the longer term, a new terminal. These moves will help attract the investment needed to become a world-leading airport. Alongside physical expansion, Stewart needs to be looking online to see how they can expand and market themselves in cities around the world. Social media is beginning to be utilised in order to begin spreading the word that Stewart is growing and could be becoming a big name in the aviation industry.

The huge runway at Stewart could once be used by the space shuttle in an emergency

Stewart Airport may not be right in the middle of New York but that might just be its best selling point. With acres of space to expand, SWF has huge potential to become a prominent airport of the future. With flights already to Scotland, Norway and Ireland, it can’t be long before Stewart attracts more airlines and more passengers and becomes the cheaper option for transatlantic travel.

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