United airlines to drop flights from Cleveland to Jamestown

JAMESTOWN – The Chautauqua County Airport-Jamestown will soon have to find another carrier to provide flights to and from Cleveland.

Just days after Sen. Charles Schumer’s visit to the Jamestown Airport to discuss the importance of air traffic in and out of Chautauqua County, United Air-lines announced it will permanently cancel almost 60 percent of flights out of Cleveland’s Hopkins Inter-national Airport.

In what he called a “final decision,” Jim Compton, United Airlines vice chairman and chief revenue officer, announced last week that Cleveland will no longer be a hub for the airline. United will begin scaling back flights and labor in June and completely eliminate its services in and out of Jamestown.

Sam Arcadipane, manager of Chautauqua County parks and airports, said he is not worried and has been in contact with United Airlines subsidiary Silver Airways, which has been offering one-way flights between Jamestown and Cleveland for $49.

“I’m tuned in and we’re coming up with contingencies,” Arcadipane said. “It definitely impacts a lot of the smaller airports, but I’m not by any means over-concerned about it. Sometimes, when things happen like this, it ends up better than before.”

Arcadipane said Washington, D.C., Detroit, Buffalo and Albany are possible future hubs offered by other carriers.

“We’re going to look at a lot of different options to take our people to,” he said. “We’re negotiating with one particular carrier that would be interested if our numbers could prove that things could end up being better.”

In recent years, the number of travelers departing from Jamestown has increased.

When Schumer, D-N.Y., visited in January, he noted that passenger figures were up 17 percent from 2012 over the last three months.

“In such a small community, a growing airport is like a diamond in the rough; it creates economic growth and offers local residents a travel option otherwise unavailable to them,” he said.

Arcadipane said it’s unclear when United’s cutbacks will be fully implemented, but he isn’t wasting any time trying to find another carrier.

“We’re not just sitting on this,” he said. “Schumer and different elected officials are attuned to it and are going to assist in any way possible to ensure we maintain service in Jamestown.”

Although he wasn’t manager when there have been issues with changing hubs in the past, he said former Jamestown Airport managers always worked through it.

“We have contingencies in place to work with other carriers,” he said. “A different carrier could bring more options and better destinations. At this point we just don’t know.”

At a press conference in Cleveland last week, Compton said United, the largest carrier at Hopkins International Airport, has generated tens of millions of dollars in losses, and operations in Cleveland have not been profitable for more than a decade.

United employs almost 2,000 people in Cleveland alone, and 430 airport positions will be cut.

“Over the last three years, Cleveland’s losses have been greater than any of our other hubs,” Compton said. “I will tell you that today it’s the least performing hub in profitability.”

Now, like Arcadipane, Hopkins officials will research other carriers to fill United’s shoes after June.

In the meantime, Arcadipane said Jamestown Airport travelers are still finding inexpensive flights to major destinations like Las Vegas.

“With the way things are now, it’s incumbent on the traveler to do their own search-work,” he said. “If you’re in a hurry and want to find the best price, use a travel agency.”