Lebanon Airport Passes Annual 10,000 Passenger Mark
Carl Roebuck helps passengers board a Cape Air flight to White Plains, N.Y., yesterday at the Lebanon Municipal Airport in West Lebanon. Cape Air offered flights for as low as $12 to help the airport reach its 10,000-passenger goal for 2012, a milestone that will guarantee the airport a $1 million subsidy from the federal government to be used for facility improvements. (Valley News — Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Passengers wait for a second outbound flight to White Plains, N.Y., yesterday at Lebanon Municipal Airport in West Lebanon. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Yesterday, 21-year-old Jeff Moran boarded a plane in Boston, flew to Lebanon, sat around the municipal airport for a few hours, and flew back.
Why? Because it cost him only $24.
“I just saw the $12 (one-way) flight deal and then decided, eh, just fly to Lebanon, just out and back, just for the heck of it,” Moran said as he sat near a window in the terminal, surfing the Internet on his laptop. “Didn’t really have anything else to do, so.”
Lebanon Municipal Airport’s sole commercial airline, Cape Air, announced last week it would offer $12 one-way flights to and from Boston and New York through the end of the year. The deal was meant to push the airport’s annual outbound passenger traffic past the 10,000 benchmark. Once it reaches that level, the airport qualifies for $1 million in federal subsidies that will go toward facility improvements such as airfield work, lighting, runway resurfacing and more — a significantly greater amount than the $150,000 it would have received had any fewer fliers flown out during 2012.
The airport needed just more than 40 outbound passengers when the deal was announced Christmas Eve, and it hit the target around lunchtime on Sunday, said Carl Roebuck, Cape Air’s lead gate agent in Lebanon.
“The most usual comment we got was, ‘I thought it was a computer error, I thought it was something wrong, I had to call to find out,’” Roebuck said. “‘I couldn’t believe how cheap the rates were; I couldn’t turn it down.’”
Moran’s background perhaps shed light on his three-and-a-half hour layover at Lebanon’s airport: A private pilot and self-described “relative airplane enthusiast,” he’s studying to become an air traffic controller at the Arizona campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and bought the tickets while home on winter break in Concord, Mass.
“I guess also part of the reason why I took it was, well, if it helps a small airport get more service then, eh, fine, I’ll help,” he said, referring to the $1 million subsidy.
He was not the only person who flew just to fly, Roebuck said. A pair of men boarded a plane out of Lebanon to Boston at 6:15 a.m. yesterday, and got on a return flight less than four hours later.
“Most people are going down for the day,” he said.
The 10,000 passengers in 2012 represents the most outbound passengers the airport has seen since 2001. Flights on Cape Air’s nine-passenger planes have been fully booked for four days, Roebuck said, with nine flights slated to depart Lebanon yesterday and 14 the day before — well above the typical six.
J.D. Larosiliere, who works at the Avis car rental facility at the Lebanon airport, took advantage of the deal to treat himself, his wife and their three sons to a day trip in New York on Friday. After departing Lebanon at 10 a.m., they had a full day in the Big Apple — visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art, spending time with Larosiliere’s father, and eating dinner at the Cheesecake Factory — and were back in the Upper Valley by quarter to 10 that night.
“We laughed about it — we chartered a plane,” said Larosiliere, whose five-person family took up more than half the seats on the flight.
The $12 deal did not extend into the new year, but passengers who wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in New York or Boston could still find cheaper-than-usual return flights this week, Roebuck said. For example, return flights from New York are around $70, as opposed to the usual $160 fare.
But some passengers, like Trevor Garvey, 22, and Montana Keddy, 19, hadn’t even gotten that far in their planning yesterday. The couple said they impulsively jumped on the deal when they heard about it on a broadcast ad.
They made plans to watch the ball drop in Times Square last night, but as far as getting home to Concord, N.H. — “we haven’t really figured that out yet,” Garvey said. “We figured we’re getting (to New York), and then on the way back, it’s kind of ...”
“Spontaneous,” Keddy offered.
Prior to hearing about the deal, they weren’t even aware that Lebanon had an airport. Trying to find the tiny terminal yesterday, they originally drove past it without noticing it was there.
Other passengers in Lebanon yesterday said their plans were in the works before Cape Air announced its deal, but the $12 tickets drew them to an airport they said they would not have used otherwise. Middlebury, Vt. resident Caleb Ingerson, who attends college in Florida, usually gets a connecting flight to Boston out of Burlington, and Bristol, N.H.’s Tim Arnold, a law student in Boston, typically takes the bus into the city or gets a ride from family.
They both made their first trips to the Lebanon Municipal Airport yesterday.
“It’s just easier for family, I guess, logistically, to drop us off and (my dad) can go do his thing for the rest of the day,” said Arnold, who was accompanied by his younger brother.
Would they have flown to Boston were it not for the $12 deal?
“Not a chance,” Tim Arnold said.
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3220.