Stewart Airport, a mixed civil and military airport in Orange County has taken a major step in its rebranding programme to become New York Stewart International Airport. The move comes just over one year after Norwegian started their direct flights from Europe on the 737MAX aircraft.
I visited Stewart in August 2017, just two months after Norwegian started operating and whilst talking to the staff there, I got a huge sense of excitement for what the future could hold for Stewart. One year on, I arrived at Stewart keen to see just how well they were doing.
I had the opportunity to talk to Ed Harrison once again who is General Manager at Stewart. On this wonderful occasion, Ed stressed how important this was for the airport but also for the surrounding location. As I mentioned in last year’s article, the surrounding area in Orange County has much to offer including a new Legoland which will be completed in 2020. I was told that the management team there expect 30% of all customers to come from Europe which could be a total game changer for Stewart. Coinciding with this opening, a new arrivals hall will be opening in 2020 which is part of their major development plan. The arrivals hall will be costing Stewart $30 million to build but with passenger numbers increasing in the 100s of thousands every year and predictions showing Stewart exceeding 1 million passengers by 2020, it isn’t surprising that they have begun to expand.
I told Ed that I had a special place in my heart for Stewart airport but he simply assumed I say that to every airport I talk to – the truth is, I really do. When I visited Stewart for the first time, it was one of my first ever press trips and I had the incredible opportunity of flying over the airport and into Manhattan with the Stewart based company Independent Helicopters. Who could forget an experience like that? Independent are just one of the many companies based out of Stewart and since my last visit, two new companies have invested in Stewart to be the location for their new hangars.
It is important to stress that the fact that load factors are increasing rapidly isn’t just down to Norwegian. Domestic load factors are also up and Ed Harrison believes this is due to people using Stewart to get to Europe from all across America. With airlines such as Allegiant and American offering routes out of Stewart, people can easily use it as a connection point onto Norwegian’s network. In terms of airline expansion however, Norwegian’s rough financial situation could threaten the airport’s future. With the Edinburgh network already being reduced in size, could the prospect of Norwegian being bought out impact small-aircraft routes such as these? Ed stressed that there is high level of interest from other airlines but I will remain slightly worried until these new routes are announced. On the other hand, Norwegian now operate 28 flights a week compared to 21 last year. Dublin has become a real success and now offers a 2x daily service.
What I loved about Stewart last time and found had been bettered this time is the Stewart Airport Express bus service. The journey can take as little as one hour but often takes longer and only costs $20. It has been improved since last year and a stop has been added – the shopping outlet of Woodbury Commons. Travelers can now land, be picked up by the bus, ferried to Woodbury Commons, shop and then be picked up and finish their journey into New York – cool right?
Stewart is definitely growing and the name change will do much to help it as it starts to be recognised as a New York Airport, the area’s local economy is ‘humming’ and Stewart have proved they can handle larger aircraft. During the winter snow that shut down JFK airport, Stewart successfully handled a Singapore Airlines A380 jet and took all the passengers into New York without trouble. While financial issues may be holding the expansion of Norwegian back, new airlines and routes need to be welcomed into Stewart so that the new developments can be utilised.
The New York airport of the future? I certainly think it’s possible.
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