BANGOR, Maine — Citing congestion at the its hub airport in Newark, N.J., Continental Airlines informed Bangor International Airport on Thursday that it will cease operations of twice-daily flights from BIA to Newark beginning next month.
“We are very saddened by this announcement,” Airport Director Rebecca Hupp said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “It is very uncharacteristic for an airline to make this kind of cut as we approach the peak travel season. We have recently been in touch with Continental officials about their service and [we] made a proposal to them within the last month. We are awaiting a response from them.”
Mary Clark, a spokeswoman for Continental at its headquarters in Houston, provided this statement:
“Continental is no longer able to continue service between Bangor and Newark due to a combination of factors including the economic downturn, airspace congestion in the New York area and the relative financial performance of the flights. The service between Bangor and Newark ends effective June 21, 2009.”
Continental, through its Continental Express carrier service, has operated direct flights from Bangor to New Jersey since 2005 and accounts for 14 percent of BIA’s market share. According to information provided by the airport Thursday, Continental carried 47,000 passengers within the last 12 months with an average load factor — a measure of how full a plane is — of 74 percent. Also within the last year, Continental had increased service from one flight per day to two. The carriers are 50-passenger planes.
“We hate to lose business at the airport because it reduces opportunities for passengers,” City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer said Thursday afternoon. “But, this is a very difficult business. We’re optimistic that they will be back at some point.”
The departure of Continental leaves BIA with four active carriers. Over the last two months, the airport has seen a steady increase in passengers, aided in part by extra flights by both Continental and Allegiant Air, which offers nonstop flights to Sanford, Fla. near Orlando.
“Despite this setback, the airport continues to offer strong connectivity to the national air transportation system,” Hupp said. “We will be working with our other existing carriers to fill the void left by Continental.”
Continental employs only one person directly in Bangor, according to the BIA director.
Customers who have purchased Continental Airlines tickets from BIA for flights after June 21 will be contacted and offered alternative flight arrangements or refunds, according to the Continental spokeswoman.
“But people don’t have to wait,” Clark said. “They can contact us or go online.”
In addition to BIA, Continental is ceasing service from Newark to Birmingham, Ala., Columbia, S.C., and Lexington, Ky. The airline also will reduce but not eliminate service from Newark to Asheville, N.C., Hartford, Conn., Boston, Jacksonville, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., Norfolk, Va., and Toronto.