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When the Local Airfield Becomes an International Airport: A Look at Massena, N.Y.
Massena, N.Y., a town of slightly over 12,000 inhabitants just south of the St. Lawrence River, is located a little more than 100 kilometers from both Ottawa and Montreal, and only a 20-minute drive from the Canadian town of Cornwall, Ontario. Though firmly in the United States, the town’s main airport, Massena International Airport, attracts more Canadian passengers traveling to points south than it does American due to the cheaper airfares for domestic flights.
The small airport does not have any international service and owes its “international” qualification mainly to the service it provides to Canadian travelers, as well as being an official port of entry to the United States. The only commercial service available at this facility is provided by Boutique Air, a San Francisco-based airline operating 33 turboprop aircraft which include the Pilatus PC-12s that serve Massena.
The carrier provides three daily flights in each direction to Boston Logan International Airport, allowing for convenient day-trips to Massachusetts or useful as a feeder for flights departing from or originating in Boston. Boutique Air replaced Cape Air as the Essential Air Service operator serving the city just a few years ago, one of the first Upstate New York cities Cape Air was replaced in.
The terminal is a very cozy building at the end of a cross street coming off State Road 37, approximately 3 kilometers from the center of Massena village. A common trend for airports in the region to attract more visitors, parking is free for all passengers and it is just a short walk from the main lot to the terminal.
In the main lobby, there are two check-in desks for the entire airport, manned only before the three daily departures by Boutique Air staff. There are no shops or outlets selling refreshments, but there is a vending machine next to the toilets in the main hall and, on a table near the check-in desks, a free coffee pot available for all passengers.
After the security checkpoint, which consists of a single metal detector and full-body scanner, a small boarding lounge contains a seating area where passengers wait to be communicated their seat assignment. Due to the size of the aircraft, all bags are carefully weighed and labeled at check-in and passengers are requested to state their personal weight in order to balance the aircraft properly. Passengers can then reach the aircraft walking a few steps outside the boarding lounge onto the ramp.
On arrival, passengers transit through a corridor next and arrive in the main lobby of the terminal, bypassing the boarding lounge. The main lobby is also the home to baggage claim where bags, both carry-on and checked bags, are delivered manually by airline staff to passengers who can then exit the building and leave the airport.
Given the size of the infrastructure, should Massena International Airport aspire to one day have jet services, it would need to considerably expand its passenger facilities. Nearby Ogdensburg International Airport, once an all-propeller served airport, is now offering United Express flights to Washington and Chicago, as well as Allegiant Air flights Florida, and Plattsburgh International Airport is also offering United Express service to Washington; Spirit Airlines service to Florida and South Carolina and Allegiant Air service to Florida and South Carolina.
At the moment, Massena International Airport would not be able to handle the volume of passengers generated by even a single-aisle jet aircraft; but for the time being, it remains a good option for people living in the region to reach Boston quickly and cheaply and possibly connect to other services there using Boutique Air interline facilities.
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