As we all wait anxiously for CAT III (the Category III instrument landing system) to be finished at Worcester Regional Airport (ORH) and for JetBlue to announce more flights to complement its daily trips to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, maybe we can be more proactive?
Although we can be very proud of the numbers to date out of Worcester with average loads in the mid-80s, it is surprising to see how many people in New England have no idea Worcester Airport has any flights!
Recently I flew out of Boston to Richmond with some friends, who live in Wrentham. For them, air service out of Worcester was a mystery. How can we change the overall perception of ORH?
U.S. relations with Cuba have evolved, particularly since President Obama’s historic trip to the island nation in March, and the Department of Transportation has begun to allow commercial service between the two countries.
More from Bill Randell: Less waiting, especially for improvements, at ORH
The Boston Business Journal reported last Thursday that transportation officials chose not to include Logan Airport in its initial round of route expansion to Havana. Newark, Houston, Atlanta and Los Angeles were among the major hubs tentatively selected (the article notes routes are not expected to be finalized until late summer).
JetBlue, though, was approved for flights to three smaller cities in Cuba from Fort Lauderdale, Florida (which was among the cities OK’d for Havana departures).
What if Boston had partnered with that other airport owned by Massport: Worcester Regional? Logan is already overcrowded, and it is not like Massport would be giving this flight to an airport it does not own. A shared application between ORH and Logan just may have changed the outcome.
Can anyone think of someone who has a better relationship with Cuba than our own Congressman McGovern?
It should not be lost in this discussion that there exists a common thread between Worcester Airport and Cuba. U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-2nd, has been instrumental in the airport’s rebirth and a longtime proponent for normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba.
The possibilities are endless.
Imagine a marketing campaign featuring Luis Tiant, Red Sox pitching legend and proud Cuban, inviting people to fly to Havana from both Boston and Worcester. Maybe people, like my friends in Wrentham, would realize Worcester is open and consider our $42 per week parking and short lines. ORH could then become an option not just for Cuba, but for the next time they are thinking of a trip to Florida.
More importantly, the Caribbean and Latin America are target markets for JetBlue. Many people do not even realize that you can fly to many of these destinations through Worcester’s two Florida connections. A Cuba flight would only enhance and further complement those options.
We need to change the perception. Stop people from saying, “There’s an airport in Worcester?”
Cuba, and Luis Tiant [Editor’s note: Cuban-American former Worcester Tornado Jose Canseco might be available; and current Sox “prospect” Rusney Castillo, a 2013 defector, could use some career options], could accomplish that and put us in a position to succeed when more destinations are added.
To those people who think this is a crazy idea, I bet you thought daily flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando out of Worcester with JetBlue was a crazy idea also. Instead of waiting to see what JetBlue may, or may not, bring to Worcester, let’s aggressively pursue a direct flight to Havana with the same ambition and vigor Boston did when it recruited General Electric to build a new headquarters in the Seaport District.
And let’s not forget power players like McGovern, who could help make this happen.
Somebody give El Tiante a call and invite him to the Owl Shop for a good cigar and discuss hiring him for our Worcester-to-Cuba campaign connecting through Fort Lauderdale.
Bill Randell started and operates the local news website Worcester Herald, and is the owner and author of FlyORH, a website dedicated to Worcester Airport. He is also president and founder of Worcester-based businesses Advantage Benefits and ABG Real Estate.