There will be five more commuter flights every weekend from Johnstown beginning next month, airport Manager Thomas Keyes said Tuesday at a Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority meeting.
Currently there are five round-trip weekday flights from Johnstown, including two to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and three to Pittsburgh International Airport, but there are only three flights on Saturdays and two on Sundays. Beginning Aug. 3, Boutique will add five more weekend flights, Keyes told the authority members.
“The goal is to have identical schedules for the weekend and weekdays,” Keyes said.
The move will build on Boutique’s successful operation, which increased ridership more than 75 percent during the first six months of 2019, lead regional manager Brian Kondrad said.
Kondrad participated in Tuesday’s meeting by telephone.
“Things are going so well in the Johnstown market that it makes sense to add flights,” Kondrad said.
The new flights are in addition to the 30 round-trips each week that are subsidized by the federal Essential Air Service program.
“We are doing it on our own dime,” Kondrad said.
Under the EAS contract awarded last year, the Department of Transportation pays Boutique up to $3,163,097 a year to operate 30 round-trip flights from Johnstown each week. They include 18 of the flights that go to Pittsburgh and 12 to BWI.
Authority Chairman James Loncella celebrated the announcement.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in Johnstown, where the EAS airline added flights outside the (subsidized) contract.” Loncella said.
In other matters, Keyes said representatives of Gander Outdoors parent company and its contractors have confirmed the 130-foot flagpole at The Galleria complex store will be replaced with a 90-foot pole next month.
The FAA determined that the pole could interfere with aircraft approaching and taking off from the Johnstown airport if it remained higher than 96 feet, Keyes reminded the board.
“Ninety feet should give us plenty of buffer,” Keyes said.
Loncella said it will be good to see the situation resolved without permanent changes to instrument-guided approaches that could require diverting planes to other airports in some weather conditions.
“This was a year-long effort with the FAA,” Loncella said.
“The push came from the FAA. This isn’t the airport saying it needs to come down. This is the FAA saying it needs to come down.”
The massive American flag normally displayed above the Richland Gander Outdoors store was not flying on Tuesday.
A store manager said the flag’s absence was not related to the pole replacement. It was out for repairs from weather damage and will be raised again as soon as possible.