PITTSTON TWP. – for the first time in six years, travelers will be able to fly nonstop to the Orlando area from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport starting in June.
On Tuesday, Allegiant, a Las Vegas-based airline, announced two weekly flights to the Orlando-Sanford International Airport, located about 20 miles north of downtown Orlando, will begin June 21.
The last time direct-to-Orlando flights left Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was in 2005 via Hooter’s Air. since that airline went bankrupt, local travelers have had to take connecting flights to Newark, Philadelphia or Detroit to reach Orlando.
“We saw a lot of demand,” for Orlando service and the airport offered incentives to help seal the deal, said Eric Fletcher, Allegiant Air’s director of airports.
Barry J. Centini, the airport’s executive director, said the airport agreed to waive landing fees and space rental for a ticket counter to help lure the airline. those fees would have brought in at least $20,000 annually.
“More than well worth it,” Centini said. “Without flights, without this service, people will have to travel out of the area.”
Tuesday’s announcement was deemed “a great day for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and a great day for Northeastern Pennsylvania” by Centini and others who gathered in the airport’s terminal to learn the details of the new service.
Flight times have not been finalized. there will be one flight each way on Thursdays and Sundays. an introductory $83.99 one-way fare will be in place until Nov. 13 that includes most fees. the jets will seat 150.
Fletcher said tickets already are on sale online at allegiantair.com and the Allegiant ticket window will be open this Friday and Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. and again next Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 2.
Corey D. O’Brien, the Lackawanna County commissioner who chairs the airport board of directors, said Allegiant is not “a carrier that comes in and does one flight. they build and build and build.”
Fletcher said the airline will analyze interest levels through ticket sales to determine whether to add more flights to Orlando or other destinations. among the places Allegiant serves are Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Punta Gorda, Fla., as well as the company’s base of Las Vegas.
“We know there’s a lot of potential travelers here looking to take vacations,” Fletcher said.
Amanda Nelson of Towanda was dropping her father off at the airport to catch a flight to Detroit. She thinks the Orlando flights will be popular.
“You always hear people complaining they have to drive to Philadelphia or Allentown or Newark to catch a flight to Orlando. this will save time and money and I think it will work out well,” Nelson said.
Centini said he has no doubt that “you give our community low fares and they’ll respond to it.”
He said both Hooter’s and Vacation Express drew high numbers of passengers on their flights to Orlando and Myrtle Beach.
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