Pan Am set to offer flights from Tweed

Pan Am Clipper Connection confirmed on Tuesday that it will begin air service to Tweed New Haven Regional Airport starting next month, just in time for Yalies’ spring break travels.

After nearly a year of negotiations with Tweed, the airline — owned and operated by the Boston-Maine Airways Corporation — is set to offer non-stop service to four new cities in the Northeast. Pan Am’s 19-seat propeller airplane fleet will make daily flights to Bedford, Mass. and Portsmouth, N.H., plus three daily flights to Elmira, N.Y. and Baltimore-Washington International airport in Washington, D.C. Introductory fares are set for $99, though they will increase to $150 beginning in April.

The original start date was scheduled for March 15, but was changed to March 8 to accommodate Yale’s spring break, said Susan Godshall, senior vice president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

Though Yalies may benefit from the new flights, Stacy Beck, Pam Am’s director of stations, said the goal of the new service was to appeal to day travelers — business people without extended commitments who want to return home the same day. This objective informed the creation of the flight schedule, she said, which offers several flights a day at convenient times for businesspeople.

“Three flights daily — morning, midday and evening — to BWI is for business travelers to get a full day’s work in and still make it home that night,” Beck said.

Currently, the only flights offered from Tweed are through U.S. Airways, which provides service to Philadelphia. But for many travelers flying through the northeast corridor, Godshall said, BWI is a much more sensible connection than Philadelphia.

“People who want to fly within New England, say, to Boston, don’t want to route through Philadelphia,” she said. “It makes no sense.”

Airport officials said they were encouraged by the announcement, which comes after years of limited access to the D.C. metro area. Larry Denardis, chairman of the Regional Airport Authority Board, said the board had always been interested in establishing flights to BWI, especially since U.S. Airways canceled routes from New Haven to Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

As a frequent business traveler, Ward 13 Alderman Alexander Rhodeen said he looks forward to Pan-Am’s service to Washington.

“I do business in D.C., and the tolls alone to go back and forth to are $60, not including time and gas,” he said. “D.C. is one of those destinations that makes air travel feasible.”

But Pan Am’s new flights may have greater implications beyond travelers’ convenience, said Anthony Rescigno, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce. The upcoming expansion in services will help to put New Haven on the map, he said.

“A viable airport is a prerequisite for a community to have broader economic importance,” he said.

Improving business is the main reason for the flight expansion, Godshall said. Of the 4 million regional residents who traveled by air last year, nearly all used other airports such as nearby Bradley International Airport in Hartford and JFK International Airport in New York. By contrast, Tweed saw only 65,000 travelers.

“By expanding flight options, we hope to capture more local people so they don’t leak out,” Godshall said.

Tweed Airport Manager Rick Lamport said Tweed captured less than one percent of tickets sold last year to people in its serviceable market, which encompasses all travelers within a 30 minute driving distance of the airport. Those who must drive further than 30 minutes’ distance to an airport in the Northeast statistically represent the “largest under-served market in the United States,” he said.

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