November 28, 2017

New Haven jet service 'big step' for region's economy

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
American Eagle is replacing its turboprop planes with jets on routes from New Haven to Philadelphia.

The arrival of jet service at Tweed-New Haven Regional Airport this week is "a big step" for the region's economy and a nod to the growing strength of the Greater New Haven market, airport and business leaders said Monday.

Starting Wednesday, American Airlines will begin replacing its 37-seat turboprop service with 50-seat regional jet aircraft on routes from New Haven to its hub at Philadelphia International Airport, airport officials announced.

"It's a very positive thing and I think it's going to help us from an economic development point of view," said Tony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, adding that people often viewed the prop planes as "something out of the past."

"It's a big step (for the region) to be able to say we've got jet service to Philadelphia every day of the week," he said.

Airport officials said the upgrade will offer a smoother, quieter flight while adding 78 seats on daily trips to and from Philadelphia. Once there, New Haven passengers can fly direct to more than 21 countries and 115 destinations or access connections through American hubs in other cities to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries, airport officials said.

American's decision to offer the first jet service at Tweed in more than a decade is a "signal of the viability of the New Haven market," said airport Executive Director Tim Larson. He said major employers like Yale New Haven Hospital, the Knights of Columbus, Subway in Milford and a growing number of biopharmaceutical firms have supplied the airline with a reliable stream of business travelers.

"We are one of the top tier airports for American Airlines because of the strength of the New Haven market and the business community," Larson said.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said the jet service will make Tweed "a stronger asset and a more convenient option for surrounding towns."

"This is a significant economic win for the region, which can only benefit from the increase in people coming and going," she said.

There are currently three daily flights on the New Haven-to-Philly route on weekdays and two on Saturdays and Sundays, "but if it gets popular, we'll probably be adding another flight," said Larson.

While calling the jet service to Philadelphia a "great next step" for Tweed, Rescigno said the chamber will continue to push for a proposed 600-foot runway expansion in the hopes of attracting even more commercial flights.

Tweed sued the state earlier this year to challenge a 2009 state law that limits the length of the airport's main runway, but a federal judge upheld the law in October. Airport officials, who have appealed the ruling, argue the runway is too short to accommodate most commercial aircraft.

Businesses looking to move to New Haven have long cited the airport's limited service as one of the region's major downsides, Rescigno acknowledged.

"There's no question that if we just added a couple of more airlines we would be in much better shape economically," Rescigno said.

Natalie Missakian can be reached at news@newhavenbiz.com

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