Sun Air Express Changes Hands

The Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport has a new air service carrier … again.

Sun Air Express, which has been taken over by Southern Airways, was plagued by disrupted flights, reservation issues, problems with baggage handling and customer service issues. We hope Southern Airways’ takeover of Sun Air Express means a better service at the Jamestown airport and that better service will help increase the number of passengers using the airport.

An airline with those types of problems isn’t going to keep customers, so it should be little surprise that passenger totals dropped by almost 50 percent in 2015 when compared to 2014.

It is obvious the airport needs to increase its passenger count or risk losing its place in the federal Essential Air Service program. The federal program makes commercial air service possible at the Jamestown airport. Southern Airways must do a better job serving those who fly out of Jamestown. The Jamestown airport needs either a better destination than Pittsburgh or the Pittsburgh airport must add more destinations for travelers. The Steel City is a wonderful place that has undergone a striking renaissance over the past two decades. The fact remains that, for most travelers, it is not a major travel hub and, as such, is an inconvenient travel partner for many county travelers when compared to the airport in Buffalo.

We are interested to see the results of a study of the county’s two airports commissioned by the County Legislature, expected to be released in April. County Executive Vince Horrigan says the study will examine the airports’ options, potentials and economic development contributions. The study’s release must jumpstart a much-needed discussion of how Chautauqua County runs its airports.

We would hate to see the Jamestown airport close. It has the potential to be a boon for county residents who don’t want to deal with the hassle of arranging transportation to and from Buffalo or Erie when they want to fly.

County tax dollars are a precious resource, however, and the time will come soon when taxpayers won’t be able to justify spending any county money for a resource being used by fewer and fewer people.