June 24, 2008

Tourists Can Fly in and Out of Niagara Falls on Day-Tripper Special

By Sharon Linstedt, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Jun. 24--A planeload of "day trippers" from Rockford, Ill., will arrive at Niagara Falls International Airport on the morning of July 3 and depart that same evening in a first-of-its-kind tourism blitz.

The "all in one day" sightseeing experiment is the brainchild of the Greater Rockford Airport Authority to beef-up business at the underutilized Chicago Rockford International Airport. Tickets for the whirlwind trip to the Falls went on sale at 1 p.m. Wednesday and were sold out by 10 a. m. the next morning.

"People were really excited about having an affordable way to get to Niagara Falls," said Zach Sundquist, the Rockford airport's special projects coordinator. "It's a convenient and cheap way for a whole family to make the trip without the added expense of an overnight stay."

Rockford is located about 90 miles northwest of Chicago.

Round-trip tickets for the charter flight, arranged through Southern Skyways Airlines, were priced at $154 for the first 40 passengers, with the remaining 91 seats going for $192 each. The pilot flight will depart Rockford at 7 a.m. (CDT) and arrive in Niagara Falls at 9:15 a. m. The return flight will leave Niagara Falls at 8 p.m., giving the day-tripping travelers some 11 hours to experience Niagara Falls and related attractions.

"We are delighted about the "day trip" concept, with hopes of discovering a potential for regularly-scheduled seasonal service in the not-so-distant future," said Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Chairman Greg Stamm.

The NFTA will accommodate the Rockford tour group with $10 shuttles from the airport to downtown Niagara Falls. An evening return shuttle will also be offered. The visitors are on their own to plan activities while in Niagara Falls.

Sundquist said the Illinois airport already has around 40 names on a waiting list for future flights.

With a new airport terminal under construction and the potential for substantial increases in passenger counts through expanded charter and regular-scheduled flights, the NFTA board of commissioners took action Monday to boost parking capacity. The board approved a one-year lease with The Summit for overflow parking at the nearby mall.

As many as 500 spaces will be made available to Niagara Falls airport parkers at the mall on an as-needed basis starting July 1. In exchange, The Summit will have access to 40 square feet of in-airport advertising space.

NFTA Aviation Director William Vanacek said while it's rare for the Niagara County airport's 340 spaces to be filled, it's important to have a parking back-up plan.

"It's a matter of how can we be ready and not turn people away when we have crowded days. It's a problem we look forward to having down the road," Vanacek said.

The Niagara Falls airport currently sees regularly scheduled Myrtle Beach Direct Air flights and a handful of charters.

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