Plattsburgh Could Open Direct Flights to Cuba

Screen shot 2015-04-24 at 7.40.43 AMPLATTSBURGH, NY- You can barely see the planes taking off at Plattsburgh International Airport on a cloudy day, but you can see the construction.

“It’s been the fastest growing airport in the country going from zero to over 160 thousand employments in six years, but the next wave will be international travel,” said President of the North Country Chamber of Regional Commerce Garry Douglas.

Douglas just returned from a trip to Cuba with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Cuba is a prime possibility as things start to loosen up and open up in terms of travel,” Douglas said.

Their hope was to create a pipeline between a growing airport and the island nation.

“We’re now better positioned than we could have hoped to be for Cuba,” Douglas said. “We made excellent contacts, the director for national aviation for Cuba lived in Montreal for 3 years.”

And Montreal is the key to this connection, considering how often they travel south.

“We are Montreal’s US airport,” Douglas said. “85 percent of our employments come to Montreal. Cuba is the top destination for that market.”

Some Montrealers prefer coming down to Plattsburgh International Airport because it’s smaller and cheaper than their options in Canada, but some travelers are concerned with all this expansion, that may not be the case forever.

“The smallness of it is what attracted us to the airport that’s one of the things, so hopefully it doesn’t get too big,” said Montreal resident Emilio Rivere.

Rivere and his family make the quick trip to Plattsburgh from their home in Montreal for travel.

“I think Cuba, Dominican Republican are very attractive places to go to because again its cheaper and anything in February to get out of the dark of winter,” Rivere said.

And Douglas says the numbers make sense for both parties.

“More than 600 thousand Montrealers traveled to Cuba last year and that was up over 200 percent since 2010,” Douglas said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo set aside a $4.5 million grant for creating a US Customs Arrival Facility at the airport. Phase two of the $55 million expansion is set to be completed in 2016.

By Alex Rose, my Champlain Valley

April 22, 2015

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