Ford Awaits Resumption Of New York And DC Flights


    GRAND RAPIDS — Air travelers are coming back. Now all Gerald R. Ford International Airport needs is for airlines to resume two of its most popular daily flights.

    More than two months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Ford remains without direct flights to and from New York City and Washington, D.C., which airlines dropped from their schedules. The routes are among 13 eliminated to and from the airport in the wake of the attacks.

    Bruce Schedlbauer, the airport’s marketing and communications manager, is hopeful that both will eventually return.

    Skyway Airlines has indicated that it hopes to resume the two flights daily from Grand Rapids to the nation’s capital, Schedlbauer said. When that may actually occur remains an unknown, he said.

    “They said they would, they just don’t know when,” Schedlbauer said.

    There’s far more uncertainty about the two daily direct flights to and from New York City.

    Continental Express has not indicated when, or more importantly whether, it will resume the two daily flights between Grand Rapids and LaGuardia Airport.

    Schedlbauer, however, remains optimistic that even if Continental Express doesn’t resume air service to New York City, another airline will pick up the route.

    Both the New York City and Washington, D.C., routes were among the busiest flights offered at the airport, with occupancy rates typically running 60 percent to 70 percent.

    “There’s so much traffic going to New York and back, someone is going to bring that service back,” Schedlbauer said. “I sure would expect someone at some point in the not too distant future to offer that market.”

    Prior to Sept. 11, the airport handled 84 arrivals and departures daily, compared with 71 flights nowadays, and was on track to carry more than two million passengers for the year.

    Moreover, the airport soon will bring its new runway on line. The scheduled completion date for the strip falls this month and it appears that planes will be using the runway by the end of the month or early next.

    With the reduction in flights, the airport’s passenger traffic is down about 15 percent — which is far better than what was experienced in the weeks immediately following the terror attacks.

    About 40 percent of the passengers using the Ford are business travelers.

    Elsewhere at the airport, security measures remain in place, such as only allowing ticketed passengers beyond terminal checkpoints and immediate drop-off and pick-up curbside parking. Schedlbauer expects those restrictions will remain in place for some time.

    “The days are gone, at least for now, where we could meet our business associate right as they walked off the plane,” he said.

    You can, however, park a little closer now.

    The FAA gave the airport the okay earlier this month to re-open its 281-space, short-term parking lot.

    The airport originally closed the in accordance with an FAA order issued after Sept. 11 that prohibited parking within 300 feet of a terminal building.

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