Orange County Partnership - News

If at First You Don’t Succeed

By Maureen Halahan


The list of the many political, business and civic leaders who have tirelessly worked to make the promise of Stewart Airport into a reality over the years is long indeed. The reasons why this dream has remained for the most part unrealized are also large in number. It has not been for the lack of effort I tell you. And while it would have been easy to just get frustrated and move on, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Orange County Partnership, the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, and other key stakeholders stayed the course despite the many obstacles, including a worldwide pandemic.


In a story in this newsletter, we detail the positive economic news coming out of New York Stewart International Airport in 2022—two new international carriers launching service there this year and a new effort by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, the Orange County Partnership, and OC Tourism to promote the merits of the airport for business and personal use to augment the marketing program in place by the Port Authority.


While cargo activity at the airport has always been brisk, there have been many fits and starts at the airport in respect to air passenger travel. Back in 2007, the Port Authority acquired Stewart Airport and since then has invested well over $200 million on significant upgrades, including most recently $30 million for the U.S. Customs facility to accommodate international travelers.


Business was booming at Stewart only five years ago when passenger volumes rose 62%, due in large part to the success of low-cost international carrier Norwegian Air. In 2017, nearly 450,000 commercial airline passengers used Stewart International Airport, including 141,000 international fliers, fueled in large part by the launch of service by Norwegian Air. The 2017 passenger levels at the airport were up from approximately 275,000 total passengers from a year earlier.


In 2018, the Port Authority rebranded the airport to New York Stewart International Airport in the hopes of increasing activity and carriers at the airport. Then, two body blows turned everything around.


In August 2019, due to the problems with its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, Norwegian Air halted air service from Stewart as part of a plan to end all its transatlantic flights between Ireland and North America. Then came the coronavirus, which caused most air travel to grind to a halt worldwide.  Some carriers were forced to stop service altogether at Stewart.


Of late, a number of passenger air carriers have returned and some have added new destinations. Now, with the pending launch of service by two new carriers, the airport will once again be true to its name: New York Stewart International Airport.


With COVID infections on the decline, let’s hope that some normalcy will take hold soon that will foster increased business and passenger travel and restart the economic engine many believe still exists at Stewart.