P/sunny
52°
P/sunny
Hi 53° | Lo 23°

Lebanon Airport Nears 10,000 Passenger Goal

Lebanon — With just five days to go until the ball drops on Times Square for New Year’s Eve, officials at the Lebanon airport and a regional airline are focusing on a countdown of their own.

Earlier this week, Cape Air — the airport’s sole commercial airline — slashed rates down to $12 per trip for flights to New York and Boston in an effort to reach 40 more outbound passengers from the Lebanon airport by the end of the year. Those passengers would push the airport past the milestone of 10,000 “enplanements” for the calendar year and result in a $1 million subsidy from the federal government.

“Cape Air is doing some really extreme measures to entice people on the plane,” said Airport Manager Rick Dyment. “We are both literally doing all that we can.”

The imminent threat of a winter storm yesterday, along with the fact that there are only five calendar days left in the year, would make reaching that goal difficult, but Dyment said he was hopeful that the airport could net 40 more passengers by the end of the year.

He and his wife, said Dyment, are planning to fly down to New York for New Years Eve.

“For $12, you can’t pass that up,” he said. “Even if it’s just to go for the ride and come back.”

Dyment said that, on average, there are about 54 seats available leaving Lebanon for either Boston or New York, and that Cape Air has made extra planes available in case they see an uptick in demand thanks to the recent drop in fare pricing.

If the airport fails to reach its goal, it would instead see $150,000 in subsidies rather than $1 million, said Dyment, which means that 40 more passengers could bring a “huge incease” in federal funding to be used for facility improvements, such as airfield work, lighting, runway resurfacing and other projects.

Even if the airport falls short, 2012 would represent the most outbound passengers that the airport has seen since 2001. In the early 1990s, three commercial airlines used the airport, when it sent off about 50,000 outbound passengers annually.

Although $1 million would bolster the airport’s ability to maintain its facilities, there are other financial concerns stemming from politics in Washington, D.C.

Congress last year threatened to eliminate the Essential Air Service program, which provides Cape Air with an annual subsidy of $2.2 million that enables it to provide service to Lebanon.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.