Dulles in, BWI out from Hagerstown Regional Airport
Passengers arrive at Hagerstown Regional Airport on a Cape Air airplane. (By Yvette May/Staff Photographer / October 27, 2012)
On Wednesday, Cape Air’s flights between Hagerstown and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will end, said Andrew Bonney, the airline’s vice president of planning.
On Thursday, Sun Air International will start service between Hagerstown and Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia near Washington, D.C.
Sun Air will begin with two flights per day, or 14 a week. Starting Dec. 2, the schedule will increase to 24 flights a week — four each weekday and two apiece on Saturday and Sunday.
In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved Sun Air to serve both Hagerstown and Lancaster Airport in Lititz, Pa., through Sept. 30, 2015, under the federal Essential Air Service program.
The federal government will pay Sun Air $1.79 million per year to provide 24 nonstop round-trip flights to Dulles per week, according to the DOT order authorizing the new service.
Sun Air will get $2.5 million per year for 30 nonstop round-trip flights between Lancaster and Dulles.
The EAS subsidy is for communities that are not close to metropolitan airports.
Cape Air has received an EAS subsidy since it started serving Hagerstown in March 2009.
The new order says Lancaster and Hagerstown also could have had Sun Air continue the BWI flights. The annual subsidy to Sun Air would have been $1.72 million for Hagerstown and $2.35 million for Lancaster.
David Hackett of Sun Air said his company bid for the Hagerstown and Lancaster routes confident it could significantly boost local passenger travel — possibly 20 percent or 30 percent — by flying to Dulles instead of BWI.
Dulles tends to have more expensive fares, he said.
However, many passengers will have an easier time transferring to connecting flights at Dulles, a United hub, than BWI, a Southwest hub, Hackett said.
That’s because United has an “interline” agreement and Southwest does not, he said.
The luggage of passengers who start on another airline and connect to a United flight automatically will be forwarded with the flight. Passengers connecting to Southwest flights have to claim their bags, then recheck them, Hackett said.
A good change
Washington County Commissioner William B. McKinley, who serves on the airport’s advisory commission, said Dulles was seen as a likely more popular destination for Hagerstown passengers.
When his family flies, three out of every four times, it’s from Dulles, he said.
Bonney, of Cape Air, agreed that service to Dulles might be a good change for Washington County.