PITTSTON TWP. — This isn’t the snowiest winter on record at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, but it’s shaping up to be among the costliest.
Thanks to canceled flights, high heating bills and extra manpower, materials and more needed to clear runways, parking areas and sidewalks, the airport lost $75,000 in January, according to Director Barry J. Centini. February might be even worse, though those numbers won’t be tallied and made available until mid-March.
And that doesn’t even factor in the unknown lost revenues from parking, travellers buying food and beverages at the airport’s eateries, and the $4.50 per ticket fee the airport collects.
As of Wednesday, Chris Gitro, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Binghamton, said 51.4 inches of snow has fallen at the airport this winter — 21.2 inches above normal and 24.8 inches more than the total reported at this point last year.
It’s the most in the past five years, but Centini said he remembers a few winters much worse than this one when it came to snowfall totals. What’s compounding the situation, Centini said, is the high number of days with temperatures in the single digits or below zero.
“We’re burning a lot of gas to heat our buildings,” Centini said. While the airlines are responsible for deicing planes, the airport is tasked with plowing snow from runways, using chemicals to melt ice on the runways and keeping parking lots clear.
That means lots of overtime and heavy use of equipment and materials. He said even the nuisance snows still need to be taken care of, and they all add up.
“It’s costly,” Centini said.
In January alone, 57 departing flights were canceled and 55 arriving flights were, too. Centini said it’s frustrating because for the majority of them, it wasn’t something at the local level that’s the cause. In December, 27 departing flights were canceled, while 26 arriving flights were. All but six of them were weather related.
“A lot of them are not attributed to us. It’s weather in Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark that’s causing the cancellations. We’ve been pretty much open through all of this, keeping our runways cleared,” Centini said.
On Tuesday, while snow fell, no flights departing from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport were canceled, though some, mostly to Philadelphia, were delayed. An incoming United Airlines flight from Newark was canceled due to weather in New Jersey. No flights were impacted on Wednesday even though a wintry mix was falling in some spots throughout the region.