Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tweed New Haven Regional Airport celebrates the start of American jet service to Philadelphia

NEW HAVEN — The latest era of commercial regional jets flying in and out of Tweed New Haven Regional Airport began Wednesday, as a fully booked , 50-seat American Eagle flight landed — a few minutes early — amid a fair amount of hoopla. 

A few minutes later, the same plane, a Canadair CRJ-200 regional jet, took off — on time and fully booked — on a flight to Philadelphia, an American Airlines hub that provides connections to destinations around the world.

All in all, it was a seamless beginning, unusual only in the sight — reminiscent of an earlier era when jets were something new — of a fire cannon salute to the plane as it arrived and took off, and city and airport officials personally greeting arriving and departing passengers and giving each a “goodie bag” of Tweed promotional swag.

The route until Wednesday had been served for many years by 37-seat Bombardier Dash 8 turboprops, flown first by US Airways Express and now American Eagle. American is phasing out the Dash 8s.

Tweed, which uses the booking code “HVN,” has not been served by commercial jets since Delta Connection’s short-lived service between Tweed and Cincinnati ended in early 2006 after less than two years in operation.

The jets will offer New Haven passengers a smoother and quieter traveling experience while also offering an additional 78 seats a day to and from Philadelphia, officials said.

Mayor Toni Harp called the return of commercial jet service to Tweed “a milestone for New Haven and its airport, a milestone for the residents of the entire region and a milestone for American Airlines, as well.”

New Haven “has a national and even global presence in many fields —certainly in higher education and healthcare and pharmaceutical research and technology and in culture and the arts,” Harp said. “To provide those who work in and seek to advance these fields, my administration has been working toward expanded airline service here at Tweed.

“We’re eager for a city with ... great people doing great things to have greater access to other major cities and their airports,” Harp said.

She said she was “very pleased by this development and we welcome American’s confidence about New Haven in this regard.

“Earlier this year, we followed through on a $5 million noise mitigation project to address the concerns of nearby homeowners,” Harp said. “These soundproofing efforts, coupled with new technology to produce much quieter jet engines, have ‘paved the runway’ for this new service from American with modern jets.”

Tweed New Haven Airport Authority Chairman John Picard said “the reason I got involved in Tweed is because New Haven and New Haven County needs Tweed — and Connecticut needs New Haven County and Tweed to continue to grow.”

He said he hopes “that this is just the first of many new milestones ... with more flights headed to different destinations. ... Let’s hope that this is just the first step of many steps,” Picard said.

“We are thrilled that American will be introducing jet service at Tweed-New Haven,” said Tweed Executive Director Tim Larson in a news release. “This upgraded service represents an improved and more seamless passenger experience for our customers and is a demonstration of American’s commitment to our growing market.”

“Really, it’s wonderful,” he said as he stood down on the tarmac after most of the passengers on the first arriving flight had disembarked. Tweed is hoping to use the upgraded service to try to attract additional service to other destinations, he said.

Tweed “could pick up (service to) DCA right now and fly four flights a day,” he said, referring to the market demand for flights to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Arriving and departing passengers gave good reviews to the jet upgrade.

Claire Chase of Minneapolis, who arrived on the initial flight that touched down about 12:25 p.m., gave the Philadelphia-to-New Haven leg of her trip the ultimate compliment by saying, “This was just like regular flying.”

Whenever she’s had to fly on a turboprop, “I know it,” Chase said. But her flight to New Haven “was very smooth, very nice.”

John Trasocco of West Haven, who flies frequently between New Haven and Los Angeles as part of his work in the film industry, said he personally had no problem with the turboprops.

But he said of the regional jet he flew in on Wednesday, “It’s nice. It feels much safer.”

Bob Boeke, who had just finished visiting his daughter in Orange and was waiting for a flight that would take him to Chicago via Philadelphia, said he was looking forward for what he expected to be greater comfort in the new planes American is using.

American’s jet service connects New Haven passengers to more than 21 countries and 115 destinations with one-stop connection in Philadelphia, the airport said in the release. Additional connections can be made from Philadelphia via American’s other hubs to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries.

Tweed is located about 15 minutes from downtown New Haven and offers “free Wi-Fi, no waiting, no lines, no hassle and a matter of minutes between parking in front of the terminal and reaching the gate,” the airport said in the release.

The airport’s goal is to eventually pave a 1,000-foot runway safety area — originally constructed with the understanding that it would not be paved — in order to extend the usable length of the runway to 6,600 feet.

That effort was stymied by a recent loss in federal court in a lawsuit that aimed to overturn a state statute limiting Tweed’s runway length to the current 5,600 feet. Tweed is appealing the decision.

American recently announced new summer seasonal service from Philadelphia to Prague, Czech Republic and Budapest, Hungary, as well as resumed service to Zurich, Switzerland. New Haven passengers can also fly to four new American domestic markets via Philadelphia, including Des Moines, Iowa; Madison, Wisconsin; Omaha, Nebraska; and San Antonio, Texas.

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