Boosting ridership

News last week that the number of commercial passenger flights at the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport had declined should concern all area air travelers.

Last year, just 7,928 people used scheduled air service. In 2014, the total was 8,501. As a result, instead of $1 million in Federal Aviation Administration capital improvement funds the airport might have received, it will get only around $150,000.

And, because the number remains well below 10,000 a year, the airport may have a harder time qualifying for essential air service grants which subsidize several round trips per day into, and out of, the Trenton facility.

Included in the airport’s budget for next year is a near doubling of marketing funds, to $10,000. That is a step in the right direction.

Other airports, including Bangor, Portland and Manchester, N.H., conduct regular marketing campaigns touting their convenience, openly encouraging travelers to begin and end their excursions there. Like most regional airports beyond a major metropolitan area, the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport likely will never be able to compete on the basis of ticket price alone. Travelers must be won by prompting its convenience, which begins with a responsive schedule of flights. Airport officials note the total number of passengers was higher when PenAir included a late night arrival and an early morning departure in its offering.

Working with carriers to dispel concerns on the part of the traveling public that the Trenton airports rate of late-night and an early flight cancellation is higher than average also will help.

Cape Air’s affiliation with budget carrier Jet Blue also may encourage more people to begin and end longer trips in Trenton.

While the airport is not relying on local government funds to remain solvent, retaining the existing carriers, Cape Air and Pen Air, should federal subsidies dry up, will be difficult. Many area businesses, including boatbuilders, the Jackson Lab and MDI Biological Laboratory, College of the Atlantic and others, rely on their employees and visitors being able to fly in and out of Trenton.

With its new, spacious terminal, free parking for as long as 60 days and local proximity, the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport warrants consideration by anyone planning air travel from Down East Maine.


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