Jan. 21—WILLIAMSPORT — Following two and half years without commercial passenger service, commuter flights are set to resume May 23 at the Williamsport Regional Airport (IPT).
The service to and from Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., will be provided by Southern Airways Express, a subsidiary of Surf Air Mobility.
Initially, there will be 10 passenger flights a week, each transporting a maximum of nine passengers to or from Dulles. It will be the start of a new era for the airport in Montoursville, which hosted it's last American Airlines flights in September, 2021.
"Since then we have talked to everybody about resuming commercial service," said Richard Howell, executive director of the airport. "I actually started talking with them before American Airlines left," he said during an interview on Wednesday.
Williamsport will provide funding and services to subsidize and support the establishment of the program. The lion's share of the economic impact comes from the jobs in the area servicing and supporting general aviation.
"The Williamsport Municipal Airport Authority deserves a tremendous amount of credit for restoring air service in Lycoming County," said U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9, whose district includes the airport. "Their tireless efforts have led to this logistical triumph, and I'm happy to have worked with them to accomplish this goal.
"My office has had countless meetings with the FAA, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Department of Transportation, and other stakeholders over the past two years," Meuser said during an interview on Thursday evening.
"And while we've made significant headway, the work isn't over, and we will continue fighting to bolster air service at Williamsport Regional Airport. I am thankful for Southern Airways' partnership in this important venture. Their association with this project enabled the return of commercial air service to Williamsport, which will create new economic opportunities and enhance connectivity for the region."
People from all over the country will now more easily be able to attend our great local colleges and universities, patronize businesses, and visit for one of the greatest sporting events of the year, the Little League World Series, Meuser noted.
In preparation for a proposed start date in May, Howell is working with Southern on how the aircraft will be serviced. "We are working with our TSA (Transportation Security Administration) partners to ensure that we have screeners here. We are working with partners to make sure we can do fueling and deicing. It's a broad effort to make sure all the pieces are in place for the start."
No capital improvement needs to be made to the facilities, Howell said. "We are fully functional."
"I am pleased to see our region reconnected to domestic and international travel with commercial flights starting this spring to the nation's capital," said U.S. House Rep. Glenn Thompson, on Thursday. "This has been no small undertaking by the airport, county commissioners and elected officials at all levels of government. We will continue to build upon this connectivity to enhance economic development and tourism in our community."
The Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce has worked for decades in partnership with the team at the airport to enhance air services, added Jason Fink, president and chief executive officer at the chamber.
"Air travel is key to the local business community for a host of reasons, and losing it in 2021 created major challenges. Having commercial service back addresses several of those. Service from Williamsport to Dulles will allow businesses to book on any one of three main carriers.
"Williamsport Regional Airport (ITP) is truly a regional airport with businesses who regularly fly to meet with clients, potential customers, for corporate meetings or do work in other markets," Fink said.
"For over two years, they've had to factor in their schedules driving to another airport. The cost of time to drive along with mileage reimbursement, parking and a possible hotel overnight were expenses to the company. Many large and small companies need to travel and will now see savings once again with this new service."
Returning air services to the Williamsport region is needed to maintain and grow the local economy, Fink said.
'We expect to see additional flights added in the future with Southern to provide more options for companies in our region."
The agreement with Williamsport establishes a funding stream from the use of locally acquired grants coupled with community donations to mitigate risk to Surf Air.
"Williamsport, Pennsylvania is at the forefront of a new era in regional mobility," said said Stan Little, the chief executive officer of Surf Air. "Their forward-thinking approach helps to expand access to convenient air travel that connects their community with the larger commercial air service networks."
Through Southern's interline and distribution agreements, passengers flying to and from Williamsport will have a seamless connection at Washington-Dulles on United, American, and Alaska Airlines, including through-bag transfer. Tickets will be available for purchase on United.com, AA.com, AlaskaAir.com, and iFlySouthern.com.
Southern will operate these flights using a Cessna Grand Caravan turboprop aircraft, with nine passenger seats and two pilots.
"The Williamsport Municipal Airport Authority and I welcome this commitment on the part of our new airline partner, Southern Airways Express," airport director Howell said.
"We believe connecting to the Dulles hub and the access to multiple major carriers through Southern's interline and distribution agreements will offer our community more travel flexibility that ever before. We look forward to a long relationship and thank Southern Airways Express for the confidence in our community."