“Not a lost cause”: Williamsport’s empty terminal is waiting to be filled

An American Airlines 50-passanger plane waits for boarding a week before the airline cancelled service to the Williamsport Regional Airport. ANNE REINER/OnthePULSE

As commercial service with American Airlines ended last week, talks were underway to bring United Airlines to the region by spring 2022. 

That’s what Williamsport Regional Airport Executive Director Richard Howell hopes to see. 

But fluctuations in air travel, recurring spikes of COVID-19 cases and the oncoming low travel months seem to be a constant thorn in the region’s quest for stable air service.  

The airport’s relationship with American Airlines was tumultuous and, while the global provider may offer good service in some locations, it has historically been poor in Lycoming County, according to Howell. 

“This market has always responded to service when the service has been good,” Howell said. “I’ve seen American (Airlines) provide great service. … they didn’t here.” 

A history of cancellations and unreliable flights have turned people away from using the Williamsport airport over the years, according to Howell, but he added that previous leakage studies show a high volume of people in need of air service throughout the region. 

Inside the Williamsport Regional Airport terminal building. FILE PHOTO

The most recent cancellation of service, with the last flight leaving Williamsport on Sept. 30, is due to persistent COVID-19 spikes over the past few months, he said, as airlines across the globe see falling ticket sales. American Airlines left two other small airports last week in addition to Williamsport. 

Howell said negotiations are underway to bring United Airlines to the Williamsport airport in the spring, with a connecting hub to Dulles, Virginia. This is not yet finalized. 

The airport was awarded a $950,000 grant to subsidize an incoming airline, but Howell is hesitant to use those funds during the off season as it could mean throwing money away on empty airplanes. 

“It’s a horrid time of year to try to begin air service,” Howell said, adding that January and February are the lowest months for air travel across the country. Waiting until the spring to bring in a new service would be a better use of money, he said. 

The grant funds will be used to offer a minimum revenue guarantee agreement with the incoming airline, which ensures it will meet its yearly revenue goals, even if sales are low. 

“It’s to compensate them for what they may have lost,” Howell said. 

While the airport will see less air travel during the winter, Howell says he does not expect to lay off any airport staff. The car rental companies at the airport also remain operational. Private planes and corporate jets will still be running, as will the airport’s other services. 

However, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees will be cycled to other airports, he added. 

“The takeaway from this is it’s not a lost cause,” Howell said. He is confident that with the benefit of the new terminal, the airport has what it needs to host a new airline and he hopes to secure one by the spring.

Author

  • Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

Anne Reiner

Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

11 Comments
  1. Where is the rest of the article? There is never a continuation of any of the articles I’ve tried to read on your site. Has anyone from your e-zine ever tried the links. You often have interesting coverage of the area but the nonworking links that lead to the full article are a real turn off.

    1. Hi Chris, the full article is on the website. I’m not sure what partial article you are referring to. Thanks for the note about the links. They are working on our end, but we will look into it. If you have further questions, feel free to email info@onthepulsenews.com thanks!

      1. Thanks for the reply. I really enjoy the article topics it’s just frustrating not to be able to read them in full. The partial link I meant is the one on norhcentralpa.com that says “read the full article at on the pulse”. That link just goes to the comment form page, not the article.

        When I go to the front page of onththepusenews.com the same comment form page appears when clicking the links to articles, but not the article itself. So the same problem exists in both places.

        Thanks for your attention to this matter. You really deserve wider readership imho but readers need to be able to reach the articles.

        1. Thanks Chris, I’ll let Northcentralpa know that the link is broken. Hopefully that fixes the problem. Thanks for your support!

  2. The links don’t work at all from your front page. They come to this comment form page not the article. Please test your links.

    1. Hi again Chris, On the PULSE and Northcentralpa.com to two different websites. I’ll look into the link issue on our site. Thanks!

  3. We lost air service because 70% of the residents here are trump loving covidiots. By spring we will have 2% less of them. It’s a start. Sad start, vet a start at recovering nonetheless.

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