Altoona-Blair flight plans expected to change

MARTINSBURG — The flight schedule at the Altoona-Blair County Airport is expected to change in July when the airline providing passenger services adds a daily weekday flight to the Pittsburgh International Airport and drops a daily weekday flight to the Baltimore-Washington International airport.

The change means that Southern Airways, on weekdays, will have three roundtrip flights to Pittsburgh and one roundtrip flight to the BWI airport, at

9:15 a.m.

“I think the airport is going to be better served with the new schedule,” Southern Airways Chief Commercial Officer Mark Cestari said. “There’s so much momentum in Pittsburgh now.”

Current flight times and schedules are to remain intact through July 8, and the changes are due to take effect July 9. Passengers with reservations after July 9 who would be affected by the changes will be contacted and offered alternatives, Cestari said.

The pending changes — which are not yet finalized or reflected on Southern’s website — are being proposed to help Altoona-Blair County passengers make connections with American Airline flights at the Pittsburgh airport, Altoona-Blair County Airport Manager Tracy Plessinger said.

The latest version of the pending schedule moves the county airport’s first weekday flight to 5:25 a.m. instead of 5:50 a.m.

That earlier departure, Cestari said, gets passengers into Pittsburgh so they can make

7 a.m. connecting flights.

Later flights from Altoona-Blair County to Pittsburgh are expected to be scheduled at 11:55 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., instead of the current single weekday afternoon flight of 2:15 p.m.

The pending schedule is also going to change the time of the last weekday flight into the Altoona-Blair County Airport from Pittsburgh. Instead of the current 7:40 p.m. departure from Pittsburgh, the new schedule assigns that flight’s departure to 8 p.m. Cestari said that will be good for passengers arriving from other locations who want to get back into the Altoona-Blair County Airport on the same day.

“The extra 20 minutes can make a big difference,” Cestari said.

The pending schedule changes are also expected to restore the option of flying between the Pittsburgh and BWI airports with a 20-minute layover at the Altoona-Blair County Airport. Before the last schedule revised the layover to two hours, that route helped boost passenger numbers at the Altoona-Blair County Airport.

Since May 2017, the Altoona-Blair County Airport has consistently averaged more than 10 boarding passengers a day — and sometimes 11 — as reflected in monthly statistics that Southern Airways compiles for review by airport leaders. Total daily passenger numbers during that same time frame ranged between 20 and 22.

The company’s information also indicates that in May, 56 percent of the Altoona-Blair County Airport passengers flew to Pittsburgh and 44 percent flew to the BWI airport. Of the passengers heading to Pittsburgh, 93 percent were picking up a connecting flight. Of those flying to BWI, 70.5 percent were picking up a connecting flight.

Statistics also showed that 50 percent of the Altoona-Blair County Airport passengers who flew in May picked up a connecting flight with Southwest and Spirit airlines. Nineteen percent made connections with American Airlines flights.

When the Altoona-Blair County Airport Authority met Monday night, Cestari reviewed the pending schedule changes that he expects will draw more passengers. From Pittsburgh, American Airlines offers non-stop flights to 10 destinations, Cestari said. And because of the new interline ticket and baggage agreement between Southern and American Airlines, Altoona-Blair County passengers will be in a position to secure one ticket and check bags once for the entire travel route, airport leaders said.