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Nonstop flights planned for Bridgeport-Orlando

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --Passenger numbers at Bridgeport's North Central West Virginia Airport are expected to nearly double with the inauguration of nonstop service to Florida's Orlando-Sanford International Airport through the low-cost carrier Allegiant.

The twice-weekly service, scheduled to begin on Nov. 14 with 160-seat Airbus 320 aircraft, was announced Tuesday by the Las Vegas-based airline.

"It's not out of the realm of possibility to expect to get an additional 15,000 to 20,000 passengers taking advantage of this new service," said Richard B. Rock, director of the Bridgeport airport, which currently draws just over 10,000 passengers annually.

The new flights will depart Harrison County on Thursdays and Sundays, and return on the same days. "People will be able to leave here at 11:15 a.m. and arrive in Orlando by 1 p.m. or so," said Rock.

Bridgeport is among 10 new cities being added to Allegiant's flight network, bringing the number of U.S. cities served by the airline to 99, the most of any low-cost carrier in the nation. To acknowledge that milestone, Allegiant is offering roundtrip fares as low as $99 for those purchasing tickets by Aug. 27 for travel taking place by April 29 of next year. Reservations can be made through the airline's website at www.allegiant.com, or by calling 702-505-8888.

Bringing the low-cost carrier to the Clarksburg-Bridgeport area has been a four-year effort by Rock and the airport's administrative team. "To get an airline like this -- one that would be very desirable to any airport in any city -- is a great accomplishment for us," he said.

Allegiant's presence will also provide breathing room for the airport in meeting the 10,000 per year passenger threshold needed to be considered a primary airport by the Federal Aviation Administration, and qualify for $1 million annually in federal Airport Improvement Program funds.

Passenger boardings at the Harrison County airport dipped to less than 5,000 in the years immediately following the 9/11 attacks, but have hovered above the 10,000 mark since 2008.

Daily United Airlines service to Washington's Dulles International Airport is also available at North Central.

The new Florida service "will be a great addition to the quality of life in the area by increasing travel options," Rock said. "I hope the community supports it."

Rock said his airport's primary passenger base extends from the Sutton area in the south northward to Washington, Pa., "but we hope to draw people from all directions."

Allegiant also offers flights to Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Myrtle Beach from Huntington's Tri-State Airport.

"We are pleased to bring affordable and convenient travel options to the residents of Clarksburg," Allegiant President Andrew C. Levy said in announcing the new nonstop Orlando route. "We are confident the north central West Virginia community will appreciate the convenience of flying nonstop to Orlando and the value of bundling their air, hotel and car rental reservations together through us."

Charleston's Yeager Airport has been trying to attract a carrier serving the Orlando area since AirTran dropped its Charleston-Orlando route in June of 2012 after it was bought by Southwest.

"We'll find out in late September or early October whether our Small Communities Air Service grant is approved, which would provide us with $750,000 in marketing support to attract a new Florida carrier," said Bryan Belcher, Yeager's marketing director.

Meanwhile, Belcher said, congratulations are in order for the North Central airport being able to secure its Orlando service.

 "Any time an in-state airport has an announcement like this, it's a great accomplishment and good for the state," he said.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.

 

 


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