Plattsburgh, NY - You ask. We take action. One woman tells us a trip to Boston wasn’t just convenient– it was lifesaving.
Just last year Rachel Finn of Wilmington, NY was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her abdomen called ‘primary retroperitoneal mucinous cystadenocarcinoma’. To fight the battle she needed chemotherapy every two weeks. Finn’s doctors just happened to be 250 miles away in Boston.
"It's a great place to live up here in the Adirondacks,” Finn said. “We have some great healthcare, but not very specialized healthcare."
Finn came across a PenAir flight directly to Boston for less than $80. For six months that was her means to medicine.
“That flight literally saved my life,” Finn said.
PenAir in Plattsburgh has been funded by Essential Air Service– federal funds that connect smaller airports to larger ones.
On Wednesday the Department of Transportation awarded the contract to a different airline ‘SkyWest’, which will offer a flight to Washington D.C.’s Dulles International Airport instead.
The DOT received many letter in support of PenAir, including one from Rachel. Ultimately, the DOT stated, “The Department must rely most heavily on the views of the elected officials.”
Elected officials such as Robert Hall– a Clinton County Legislator and the Airport Chair.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Hall said. “It’s going to be a step in which we go places out of Plattsburgh that we’ve never been able to go before.”
Hall said the legislators chose SkyWest because it was the lowest bid and offered more connecting flights with less hassle than PenAir.
Hall said he knows most supporters of PenAir use the flight for medical reasons.
Local 22 & Local 44’s Rebecca Reese then asked Hall, “What would you say to those people who are worried about losing their medical care or the flight to Boston?”
“It’s a very bad situation,” Hall said. “It’s only a handful of people, but at the same time every person is important.”
Hall said there is a flight from Saranac Lake to Boston.
Finn said she doesn’t buy that SkyWest was what the community wanted.
"I can't be the only life they've saved through that,” Finn said. “Maybe these politicians need to get to Washington fast... I hate to think that."
Hall said PenAir is welcome to keep its flight to Boston. However, PenAir officials said they can’t afford to keep operating without the federal funds.
VP of Sales & Marketing for Penair, Melissa Roberts, wrote in an email to employees:
“While we are sure the local city councils are cheering; we in fact know there are many throughout the communities that are saddened by this decision.”
There are 23 jobs at PenAir that are now up in the air. Hall said he is hopeful folks will be reemployed by SkyWest.
According to the Department of the Transportation, SkyWest would be able to dedicate a flight to Boston under the federal contract. SkyWest representatives said there is no current plans for a flight to Boston. The company said in a statement:
“SkyWest bid to operate flights to Washington-Dulles International. We will continually evaluate the market for further opportunities based on demand.”
Finn said she hopes that SkyWest will create that flight.
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