September 17, 2008

Falls Gets New Flight to Florida

By Sharon Linstedt

A South Carolina-based airline will offer a new Florida flight option out of Niagara Falls starting in December.

Direct Air, which until recently was known as Myrtle Beach Direct Air & Tour, will begin non-stop flights to Punta Gorda, Fla., from the Niagara Falls International Airport on Dec. 5. Direct Air will utilize the Charlotte County Airport, located just outside Punta Gorda, about 30 miles south of Fort Myers.

The new direct flight, which will depart Niagara Falls twice weekly, on Fridays and Mondays, will replace a route Direct Air offered last winter to St. Petersburg, Fla.

Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Executive Director said he expects the new route to be popular.

"Florida is a key destination for Western New York and Southern Ontario residents, especially in the winter months, so we're very happy about their decision to add these flights," Meckler said.

Direct Air could not be reached to comment, but the airline's web site lists flights ranging in price from $99 to $169 each way.

Direct Air has also decided to continue its three-departures-a- week slate of flights from Niagara Falls to Myrtle Beach through April. Those flights, which debuted in March 2007, ending a nearly decade long gap of regularly scheduled flights out of the Niagara Falls airport, were discontinued last winter in favor of the Florida runs.

"The fact they are going to fly to both Florida and Myrtle Beach speaks well for the market out of Niagara Falls," Meckler said. "This should attract the attention of other airlines as we get closer to the completion of the new terminal at NFIA."

The South Carolina-based airline, which had just a handful of cities on its flight map in 2007, is planning to expand its reach over the next several months. Direct Air, which currently services Plattsburgh, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Ohio, and Newark, in addition to Niagara Falls, with Myrtle Beach as its home base, has been busy signing up new airports.

In the coming months, new Direct Air flights will take-off from Orlando; Worchester, Mass., and Kalamazoo, Mich., as well as Punta Gorda.

The airline, which leases planes through larger fliers, is now contracting aircraft through Virgin America.

Meckler also confirmed the NFTA is continuing talks with Maryland- based Kenny Tours to launch direct flights from Niagara Falls to Shannon, Ireland, in summer 2009. Those charter flights, which were to begin this summer, were postponded when Kenny was unable to secure leased aircraft service.

"They are continuing to work on signing an aircraft provider and we're still working with them. Our goal is to bring international service to the Niagara Falls airport in 2009," Meckler said.

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Originally published by NEWS BUSINESS REPORTER.

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