Cape Cod’s biggest airport is getting its first global carrier in nearly two decades, connecting Hyannis to several major cities in what could provide a long-awaited boost in commercial air travel.
The Oct. 12 announcement by American Airlines reverses a period of decline for the Cape Cod Gateway Airport, which has seen the number of commercial passengers drop by 93 percent since 2007; it now sees fewer than 30,000 passengers a year.
The expansion also bucks a generally pessimistic trend for small airports, which have suffered as regional carriers contend with rising costs and a national pilot shortage.
American Airlines will begin flying to Hyannis starting June 5 of next year. The daily summer service will have flights from New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Washington Reagan National Airport. The new routes will connect the Cape to more than 80 destinations across North America.
The new flights are part of a larger expansion by American in the region. The airline will also add direct seasonal flights daily to and from LaGuardia from Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Bangor, Maine, and twice daily year-round service to Portland, Maine. The airline will also operate service from LaGuardia to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Flights to Hyannis are available to purchase starting Oct. 23. Tickets for other routes will begin Oct. 16.
“We are thrilled to add Hyannis to our global network for the first time, giving customers more ways to enjoy the charm of Cape Cod and all it has to offer,” said Joe Sottile, American Airlines director of domestic network planning, in a statement.
The latest announcement is the product of five years of pitching Cape service to major carriers, according to Cape Cod Gateway airport manager Katie Servis. She said she traveled to multiple industry events to make her case.
“Every time I would go to these events, I would make an appointment with them to talk about the airport and the importance of not only seasonal but year-round residents that would use the service,” Servis said.
There are about 250,000 people who travel to Providence or Boston airports that could use the service in Hyannis, according to a study commissioned by the airport in 2018, Servis said. “I’m sure they would jump at it.”
The airport hopes customers will gravitate toward the new service once it starts.
“If there’s consistency, people get used to coming to this airport to operate out of it, and they think of putting in HYA in their search engine rather than BOS, or PVD for Providence,” Servis said. “That’s a game changer.”
American Airlines will compete with JetBlue, the only other major airline at Hyannis. JetBlue, a domestic carrier, offers four flights daily from Hyannis to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia in the summer.
The announcement comes as the airport plans to extend one runway, a $22 million project to accommodate the larger Airbus planes JetBlue uses for its service to and from New York.
The runway expansion did not play into American Airlines’ decision, Servis said. The company flies an E-175 aircraft, which is smaller than JetBlue.
Two key airlines pulled out over the years in Hyannis, including Colgan Air in 2010 and Island Airlines in 2016. That left longtime stalwart Cape Air and JetBlue with seasonal flights as the only scheduled service until now.
“To have American, after all these years come in, is a signal to our Cape community and potentially other air carriers to take a look and say, ‘Hey this is a great destination,’” said John Griffin, chairman of the Cape Cod Gateway Airport Commission.
And the flights will be a “fabulous convenience,” Griffin said. “If you can go to New York or D.C. and not have to drive across the dreaded bridges — that’s a real asset to the community.”