STEWART AIRPORT – Citing the continued grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jets that operated between New York Stewart International at Newburgh and Europe following two fatal crashes on those jets flown by foreign airlines, Norwegian Air announced on Tuesday it would terminate all fights from the Newburgh area airport in September.
Norwegian had been operating with a leased jumbo jet from Stewart since the 737 Maxes were grounded.
When the Max jets are recertified for operation, Norwegian spokesman Anders Lindstrom said it was “highly unlikely” that service would resume at Stewart.
Stewart Airport Commission Chairman Louis Heimbach is disappointed by the announcement.
“I’m hoping that the Port Authority will put their marketing program in high gear for Stewart and find, not only international flights, but more domestic flights too,” Heimbach said. “The Port has known that, of course, but it seems to languish and we need to make sure that we give it a little more attention and have them step up to the plate.”
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus noted the airline “performed well in Orange County,” but acknowledged the safety issues of the Max 737 affected the decision to pull out.
“Norwegian proved that Stewart Airport is a viable option for international fights and the airport will continue the construction of a new customs facility,” Neuhaus said. With attractions in like Legoland and Woodbury Common, Neuhaus said having international service is a natural fit. “We have been almost exclusive with Norwegian up until today,” Aer Lingus, the Ireland-based company as well as other companies – American based companies – want to do more international travel, so today it signified we are open for business to have them come in and fill a very successful spot that Norwegian had.”
Orange County Partnership President Maureen Halahan said Norwegian’s departure “opens the door wide for other international carriers that have shown great interest in Stewart.” With construction on the international arrivals addition to the Stewart terminal, Halahan said the airport is “positioned well for a quick recovery.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Stewart, issued a statement expressing its disappointment about the Norwegian decision. “Norwegian’s experience at New York Stewart International has demonstrated that with the right equipment, market positioning, and route map New York Stewart has strong appeal.”
The Port Authority said Stewart is in “on-going discussions with nearly a dozen airlines, both new entrants and those looking to expand service in the region. The Port Authority believes that the market is strong and the airport continues to have strong potential for growth for domestic and international flights.”
The agency said Stewart has appeal as “a global gateway to the New York Metropolitan region. But the airport is also a key gateway to the Hudson Valley.”
The Port statement said the airport is working with Hudson Valley Tourism and Empire State Development to increase tourism through the airport, “working to better understand passengers’ needs and expand Stewart’s digital footprint.”
It said Stewart will focus “on drawing new customers through events like the NY International Air Show and continuing to improve access following the success of the Stewart Express Bus.”
All the transatlantic routes originally served by the 737 Maxes are being discontinued.
Matthew Robert Wood, senior vice president for commercial long-hail and new markets for Norwegian, said the return date for the 737 Max jets remains uncertain and leasing replacement planes is a solution that is “unsustainable.”
Service aboard Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner jumbo jets will not be affected by this decision.