Piedmont operated a hub at SYR
from May 1986 until sometime after Piedmont was merged into USAIR in 1987. The hub was built by Empire Airlines, a regional carrier based in Utica and which operated Fokker F-28's and Swearingen Metros. Piedmont bought Empire in the spring of 1986 and merged the carriers together in May. In early April 1986, I flew on an Empire F-28 on an EWR
flight, which a/c had already been painted in PI
colors and had "Empire" stickers.
When Empire started building a hub at SYR
shortly after Deregulation, the airport was a medium-size terminal handling about 1.5-1.9 million pax/yr. The terminal featured two 10-ish gate concourses attached to a central terminal with a zigzaggy roof similiar to MSP
Empire occupied the end four or five gates in the South Concourse, which they shared with People Express, Eastern, and Republic. As Empire built up, they took over all but RC
's gate in South. American and People joined USAir, TWA, and Eastern in the North C. There were also some niche regionals like Wright at SYR
at that time. By 1985, traffic had passed 4 million pax annually, and SYR
officials were talking about building a parallel east-west runway on the north side of the airport. These plans were never realized.
About 1986, I think it was Piedmont post-Empire (anyone correct me if wrong) that built a seven or eight-gate extension to the South Concourse. At its peak, the hub handled about 70 jet flights, mostly F-28's but with some 737's mixed in. Empire ran a similar number of prop flights; I don't remember if PI
kept the Metros. I don't remember if PI
ran flights to CLT
The hub served about every commercial airport in New York State and major and medium-size markets between Boston and Detroit E/W, and Montreal and Washington, DC N/S. Empire and then Piedmont provided badly-needed competition for USAir in the Northeast.
However, when consolidation mania hit, USAir and Piedmont merged. It was one of the stupidest merger mistakes of the Reagan Transportation Dept (which at that time had jurisdiction over mergers). When the five-year consent decree with the NY and WV
attorneys general to maintain service elapsed in 1992, USAir decimated service at many airports that had been big PI
/US airports. The 1990's era of delibrate capacity constriction and fare gouging in the region gradually settled in.