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Commercial air service is back but true commitment is what area needs

Up, up and away — we’re supposed to be back in the air today at the Williamsport Regional Airport.

Commercial flights at the airport here were grounded in October, not long after starting an exciting new service to Charlotte, North Carolina, that was intended to attract more local passengers.

Prior to the start of the Charlotte destination, planes leaving here went to the Philadelphia International Airport where passengers could catch planes to other destinations.

The new destination was short-lived. In November, commercial air service was halted due to declines in travel caused by COVID-19.

The good news is that, with the federal government’s recent approval of COVID-19 relief funding, American Airlines has agreed to resume service to Philadelphia starting today.

“We would rather still be going to Charlotte, and we will continue to work on that,” reported Richard Howell, airport executive director.

Good.

We also would rather have flights to Charlotte, for a number of reasons. We believe more people would use the local airport if its commercial carrier took them in a more direct route to their end destination. More often than not, Philadelphia’s not it.

Many flights from here to Philadelphia end up going next to Charlotte where passengers catch planes to their final destination, adding time and expense to their overall trip.

But service to Philadelphia is better than nothing — and nothing is what the local airport has had for commercial passengers since October.

Indeed, it was stunning to see local air service halted so abruptly, just a year after construction of a modernized, $17 million terminal with the latest security features.

What a waste it would have been to let this facility sit idle, other than for private planes and other operations.

Now, American Airlines is back, lured by federal dollars, with service expected until at least March 31.

That’s not very long, and we have to wonder if American will pull out again.

Let’s hope that Howell and his team are successful in their exploration of other commercial passenger carriers.

The best solution would be for another carrier to truly commit to offering more realistic travel opportunities upon which the local community can truly depend.

This needs to be more than just a sudden grab for federal dollars.

As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

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