Our View: Things are looking up at Rochester airport
Thursday’s news that Rochester International Airport will add another airline, though with only twice-weekly service, keeps RST moving in the right direction, which is good news for Mayo Clinic, business travelers, and for the rest of us who want more travel options.
Elite Airways is a modest, 12-year-old regional carrier based in Portland, Maine, founded by “airline veterans looking to provide a better travel experience for their passengers,” according to their website. They’re mostly flying routes along the East Coast and to Colorado, so the new service to Rochester and Phoenix means they’re in position to spread their wings to grow.
That’s the model Rochester is after — more flights. The airport has aspired to grow since the days of Ford Tri-Motors and Lobb Field. The management company is owned by Mayo and runs the airport for the city, but for all intents and purposes, RST operates as an auxilliary to the clinic, to maximize Rochester’s potential as a destination medical center.
Speaking of DMC, the EDA’s executive director, Lisa Clarke, told the Post Bulletin Thursday that Elite “aligns nicely with the DMC initiative and the growth of the region.” She said DMC is “working with the airport, along with other community organizations, to enhance the experience of travelers, patients, and guests to and from Rochester.”
After its $12 million renovation to include a new U.S. Customs station, it’s ready for more growth.
RST is served by United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which offer 13 flights daily to Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Elite will add four more, two to Phoenix and two to St. Augustine, Fla., weekly, as of July 19.
Among other advantages, the airport terminal is nearing completion of a $12 million facelift that expands the U.S. Customs station, and more people are choosing to fly out of Rochester to save time, gas and parking expenses and long TSA lines in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
It also doesn’t hurt that the Fly Local campaign for local businesses has taken root, with Mayo’s decision last year to climb aboard.
Petite Elite sees an opportunity in all this. Company President John Pearsall made the Mayo connection clear in his statement Thursday. “We’d like to thank the airport and community leaders in Rochester for their support and look forward to a successful start of service in July.”
They’ll have two departures per week, Sunday and Thursday, to Phoenix, and two per week, Monday and Friday, to St. Augustine, which is about 40 miles from Mayo’s Jacksonville clinic and hospital.
Rochester has seen small carriers come and go quickly over the years — one of the most colorful was Allegiant Air, which had a Las Vegas showgirl and an Elvis impersonator on hand when announcing its new service from Rochester to Vegas in 2007.
Elvis wasn’t in the terminal Thursday, nor the showgirl, but if Elite sticks around longer than Allegiant and has some success, we’re OK with that.
Another reason to wish the airline well: It doesn’t charge extra for the first checked bag.