Outlook 2024

Page 28


K8 | SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2024


Westover airport is ready for takeoff

“The airport is a place that “connects Chicopee and the region to the world, in a sense.”

Resumed charter flights, new leadership and hangar expansion time employees, Widor said. By Lori Stabile

gional Airport. He brings both Special to The Republican his military and civilian airport CHICOPEE — From new leadbackground to his new role. ership and a hangar project to Widor said his interest in the resumption of Atlantic City aviation began as a child going charter flights and a rebrandto the air show at Westover ing effort, changes abound at with his family. He grew up in Westover Metropolitan Airport. Western Massachusetts. The airport is a place that “It’s kind of where it all start“connects Chicopee and the ed,” Widor said of his interest region to the world, in a sense,” in aviation. “And it’s been a said Andy K. Widor, president/ trend throughout my career. airport manager of Westover Circling back to this area — and Metropolitan Development being able to be involved in any Corp. and Westover Metropoli- changes and updates to the airtan Airport. port and region itself. It’s been Chicopee Mayor John L. very enjoyable.” Vieau says the impact of the WMDC and the airport on the Unique history city is “tremendous,” noting The property is unique. the positive effect on the econ- Westover was established by President Franklin D. Roosomy and tax base. He said he is looking forward evelt as Westover Field in 1939 to working with Widor in his and became the largest military air facility in the Northeast in new role. Vieau also appoints three members to the WMDC World War II, according to the board. Westover Air Reserve Base website. Then, in 1974, the “The airport runs 24/7 … it quasi-public Westover Metconnects us to the world and ropolitan Development Corp. the region. There’s a lot of potential there,” Vieau said. “Chi- was formed to convert military property around the air base to copee is very fortunate to not just have Westover Air Reserve civilian use. With more than 1,300 acres Base, but to also have a municipal airport that provides that in play, the corporation developed land into three industrial connection to everywhere.” parks in Chicopee and Ludlow Widor, of Longmeadow, and the civilian airport, emtook over as president/airport manager in August, after three ploying approximately 3,600 people across 100 establishyears as the airport manager. ments, according to a study on A Navy veteran who transferred to the Air Force reserves, the economic impact of Westover conducted in 2021 by the Widor retired from Westover Air Reserve Base in 2016 as a University of Massachusetts loadmaster. Before becoming Donahue Institute’s Economic the airport manager, he worked and Public Policy Research for the Massachusetts Port Group. Authority out of Worcester ReToday, the airport has 10 full-

The report found that business activity from the WMDCdeveloped areas supports $2.2 billion in economic output annually. The corporation manages day-to-day operations of the Westover Metropolitan Airport and handles maintenance of the industrial parks and their continuing development. There are advantages to being tied to an active military base for the airport — namely, improved efficiency, according to Widor. Westover Air Reserve Base is the nation’s largest base of its kind, home to more than 5,500 military and civilian workers, and maintains C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft operated by the 439th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit. The joint-use airfield agreement with the military allows the civilian side of the airport to use the runway 24 hours. Through “pilot-controlled lighting,” runway lights can be turned on when the air traffic controller tower is unmanned, allowing the around-the-clock operation, an initiative that started approximately three years ago, Widor explained. Westover boasts the longest runway in New England at 11,597 feet. Designed for larger military planes, it can be utilized by larger civilian aircraft that other airports cannot accommodate, according to the Donahue report.

A Sun Country Air jet at sunset at Westover Metropolitan Airport.

used by private planes and charters, Widor said. “We accommodate various types of public charters … sports charters. There are various types of local corporations that will fly into this region ... general aviation customers as well,” Widor said. “And we have local residents that store their aircraft here, single-engine aircraft for the most part, for a hobby or business.” Widor said Westover Airport is “perfectly located” with proximity to the Massachusetts Turnpike and Interstate 91. Widor said the airport has large hangars that can accommodate aircraft such as Beechcraft, Lear, Gulfstream, Global and Challenger, noting there is a need for hangar storage on a national level. To that end, a former military hangar is being refurbished and is expected to be completed this fall, featuring 31,500 square feet of aircraft storage space that will be marketed to private jet owners. The renovations to this third hangar will cost about $7 million, Widor said. Westover has 13 hangars on the civilian side (with aviation Daily use and non-aviation tenants), The airport has no scheduled amounting to approximately 300,000 square feet of space, service, unlike Bradley International Airport in Windsor not counting the State Police Air Wing, which has its own Locks, Connecticut, and is

hangar. Westover has a positive impact on the region economically. Crews and passengers that fly in on the charters and private jets will stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and visit attractions such as the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, for events such as enshrinement weekend. College basketball and football teams use the airport for games at local colleges, and celebrities use it for appearances at MGM Springfield, Widor said. If there is a United Nations meeting in New York City, often aircraft flying in from other countries will land at Westover, Widor said. In addition, life-saving organ transports are done out of Westover, as aircraft will fly in and there will be an ambulance waiting for the trip to an area hospital, he said. Charter flights Charter flights to Atlantic City returned last year after they were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a five-year agreement with Caesars Entertainment Inc., travelers can fly in a 280-seat Sun Country Airlines 737 charter jet as part of a hotel, airfare and entertainment


package through Reney Tours. In the past, six charters would run. Widor said he expects the same number to be offered this year, with the first of 2024 planned for March. Meantime, a rebranding effort was recently completed for a marketing campaign, in an effort to get the word out that WMDC and Westover Airport is one entity, as WMDC operates the civilian side of the airport. Two logos were created. One shows a circle with a plane above the words “Westover Metro Airport operated by WMDC.” Another shows a plane flying through the “o” in the word Westover. That logo just has the words “Westover Metro Airport.” The WMDC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The logos will be used locally and nationally. The WMDC logo will appear in local marketing efforts, with the Westover Metro Airport logo deployed for national placements. Other advantages to being attached to an active military air base include the availability of a larger firefighting response due.

Bradley sees nonstop London flights as next step in post-pandemic recovery By Jim Kinney


Icelandic carrier PLAY is offering no-cost stopovers in Iceland for travelers out of Logan International Airport. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY PLAY)

Budget airline launches no-cost Iceland stopover for Logan passengers By Nate Doughty

Boston Business Journal

A low-cost, transatlantic airline carrier has launched a free stopover option in Iceland for passengers traveling out of Logan Airport who are en route to one of dozens of European destinations. The no-cost feature being offered by PLAY, an Iceland-based carrier, allows passengers to add up to 10 days in the Nordic country as part of their layover at Keflavík International Airport in Reykjavík. All of PLAY’s flights to and from North America already include a layover in Reykjavík, which can range in length from as little as under two hours to about half a day. But with the stopover, passengers can extend their layover to a much longer timeline and visit Iceland’s varied natural beauties such as its volcanoes, hot springs and sights of the northern lights in the interim. “Rather than having a few hours layover in Iceland, travelers can make a stop at this bucket-list destination for an extra day or week to experi-

ence everything our home country has to offer,” PLAY CEO Birgir Jónsson said in a press release. “Long stayovers are a win-win for both us and our passengers to enable exploration at a low price.” Those prices start at $99 one-way as part of a promotional sale PLAY is offering tied to the stopover launch. A ticket at that price only includes a personal item, though upgrades can be purchased for carry-on and checked bags as well as seat selection and priority boarding. PLAY is launching this stopover feature at its other North American markets as well, which include Washington Dulles International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport and New York Stewart International Airport. The stopover option from PLAY is similar to the one offered by its rival Icelandair, which lets passengers extend layovers in Iceland by up to seven days at no additional charge.

WINDSOR LOCKS — Enough people within an hour’s drive of Bradley International Airport fly regularly across the Atlantic to London to justify a daily flight from Windsor Locks to the land of Windsor Castle. “We have access to ZIP code data. We can see where people are flying and what airport they are using to make that flight,” said Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon. “It becomes a matter of convincing these people to just use Bradley.”

So Bradley and the Connecticut Airport Authority have asked Connecticut businesses and the state government to help back its efforts to lure a flight to London and possibly Montreal as well. It’s an effort Dillon said he’s bringing to Western Massachusetts in 2024. “Can you commit to a certain amount of spending or a certain number of tickets on the flight each year?” he asked. Getting a London flight will require concessions by the airport, such as discounts on fees or money for marketing. It will also likely require a revenue guarantee for an airline, Dillon said, removing some of the risk a carrier would face. FAA regulations say the airport cannot give a guarantee, but the state, in this case Connecticut, or business groups could promise to make up the difference if ticket sales don’t meet an airline’s expectations. In 2016, Connecticut provided Aer Lingus up to a $4.5 million revenue guarantee for two years in exchange for nonstop flights to Dublin, Ireland. In 2018, then-Gov. Dannel Malloy announced a reduced guarantee, limited to winter months, of up to $13.3 million over four years. Aer Lingus did well with its

Travelers pass through Bradley International Airport. (HOANG ‘LEON’ NGUYEN / THE REPUBLICAN)

Bradley service until COVID restrictions hampered international travel. And it’s done well since, Dillon said recently. Aer Lingus had more than 5,000 passengers a month in the summer and extended a travel season that was to have ended in October with flights through the holidays. The Aer Lingus flights are suspended now, but Aer Lingus expects to be back flying from Bradley in March.

for meetings with co-workers elsewhere. “The London flight will give us a chance to make more of that up,” he said. Dillon sees opportunities for businesses to locate, or expand, in the Hartford-Springfield region if there is quick access to London. Bradley offers more nonstop flights now — 39 by 11 airlines — than it did pre-pandemic. Many of those destinations were added over the past 18 London quest months by discount carrier Breeze. The London efforts follow Beyond routes, Bradley has another year of recovery for Bradley, which claims to have landed more than $94 million handled about 6 million pasin federal money for consenger departures and about 6 struction projects. In January, the U.S. Demillion arrivals in 2023. partment of Transportation While those figures are up about 10% from 2022, statis- announced $8.8 million for tics provided by the Connecti- Bradley under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. There cut Airport Authority show travel to be 5% to 7% down was a total of $245.9 million that included 153 grants in from before the pandemic. 37 states to modernize airThe drop is largely in port infrastructure, imbusiness travel, Dillon said. Companies are still allowing prove runway safety and workers to travel to meet with create jobs. That included nearly $18 clients and outside contacts. But many have curtailed travel million in federal fiscal year

2023, with a total project cost of nearly $59 million, for what the airport calls its “vertical circulation” renovation. The airport will expand by 22,000 square feet to accommodate new elevators and escalators on both ends of the terminal so travelers can move more easily. The project is expected to be completed in 2025. Bradley passengers will no longer have to carry their own checked bags from the ticket counter to large X-ray machines. “Bradley is one of the last where they screen checked baggage in the lobby,” Dillon said. That will change with a new inline baggage screening building, complete with conveyor belts to move luggage. For corporate jets, the Connecticut Airport Authority announced in December a new partnership with Sky Harbour Group Corp. Sky Harbour will invest $30 million in a multi-hangar complex and associated services for corporate jets.

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