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Tue, Sep 09, 2008

Massport Waives Fees To Lure Carrier To Worcester Regional Airport

Direct Air To Launch Service To Florida In November

The state of Massachusetts has tried since 2006 to lure a new commercial airline to Worcester Regional Airport (ORH,) located about 45 miles west of Boston. And the state's transportation authority, Massport, was willing to put some skin in the game to make it happen.

Direct Air -- a charter operator based in Myrtle Beach, SC -- is slated to being scheduled operations from ORH November 22. Initially, the airline will operate three nonstop flights per week from to Orlando Sanford International (SFB) and another three to Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, FL. The latter lost commercial service earlier this year, when Skybus discontinued operations in April.

The Boston Herald reports Massport agreed to waive all landing, jet bridge and terminal fees for Direct Air for two years, to help the upstart service establish a foothold in the market. The city of Worcester and Massport will also kick in up to $300,000 in federal grant money to promote the carrier's service to Florida.

Direct Air will use two 150-seat Airbus A320s leased from Virgin America to fly the routes, which will also be operated by Virgin America crews. Airfares start at $99 one-way, with first-class seats available for a $100 upgrade. The charter operator plans to start similar service from Kalamazoo, MI on November 29.

"Direct Air is committed to providing safe, reliable air service with convenient and unique vacation packages," said company CEO Judy Tull. "We are confident that the new, award-winning Virgin Aircraft and three weekly non-stop flights from Orlando Sanford will appeal to a broad range of travelers seeking to travel quickly, and at a reasonable rate."

Massport CEO Thomas Kinton Jr. said the service is a boon for Worcester -- particularly at a time when most airlines are slashing service to smaller airports due to rising fuel costs. ORH was last served by Allegiant Air, which pulled out of the area two years ago.

"It’s a good start" to making the airport financially viable, said Kinton, adding Massport hopes to add other airlines down the road.

In June, the US Department of Transportation authorized $3.5 million in grants for runway improvements and expanded highway access from Route 146, to make the airport more attractive to travelers.



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