In the days leading up to the recent announcement that Delta Air Lines will soon offer daily flights between New York City and Big Flats, Finger Lakes Wine Country President Morgen McLaughlin hinted at a "game changer." Marketing agents are hoping she's right: They believe this new connection will attract new visitors to the Finger Lakes.
Daily service between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Elmira Corning Regional Airport will launch in June. One flight will run each day, utilizing a 50-seat regional jet operated by Pinnacle Airlines. Tickets for future flights went on sale last month.
Does it change the game, as has been said? The flight is listed as running 90 minutes, though actual air time will be roughly half that. Still, add the drive time to the airport, arriving at least an hour early, and the time required to get baggage and ground transportation, and the fact remains that this new flight doesn't save travelers as much time as might first appear.
But there will be new opportunities with this daily flight. Here's why.
This connection targets the New York City market that doesn't use automobiles
If you don't live in NYC, that number is probably higher than you realize. According to Census data, 54% of NYC households do not own a car. The number of households that own cars is going up, but slowly. Here's a nice look at how it breaks down.
Anyone who doesn't own a car was rarely, if ever, going to visit the Finger Lakes in the past. Now they'll have a better chance to change that.
This connection has marketers thinking about ways to bring in more big names
Want to bring a celebrity chef to the Finger Lakes? How about holding a nationally or internationally themed conference? The new argument is: We can get you there easily, with multiple options. We'll see if it pays off.
This connection has apparently been in demand
Ann Crook, the Big Flats airport Director of Aviation, has been saying for months that her customers want this flight. In fact, she cites a direct flight to NYC as the number one customer request going back years. Now, in most cases, she's talking about customers who want to be able to fly directly to NYC from Big Flats, not the other way around. But no matter. Crook points out that this will satisfy customers going out, but also customers coming in.
Whether this flight changes the game and dramatically impacts regional tourism remains to be seen. We can start looking for the impact with the first flights on June 7.