Students heading home at the end of the academic year may have a new travel option if Northwest Airlines follows through on interest the company has expressed in establishing a jet service out of Tweed New Haven Regional Airport to Detroit beginning in May.

Northwest would become the third airline with service to New Haven, increasing passengers’ flight options for departure and arrival times, as well as destinations. Joining Delta Connection, which flies to Cincinnati, and US Airways, which flies to Philadelphia, Northwest has proposed flying a 44-seat regional jet twice a day to Detroit, currently the tenth busiest airport in the nation.

Although negotiations have just begun, Airport Manager Rick Lamport said he is optimistic that Tweed and Northwest Airlines will be able to meet each other’s requirements because both parties see a great opportunity in this deal.

“Northwest sees a chance to tap a market of passengers looking to travel to the West Coast or internationally, through Detroit,” Lamport said. “And we see a great link for passengers in the region to the rest of the world, as well as visitors coming into the area.”

Northwest is a competitive international airline, particularly with its flights to Asia through Detroit. Tweed New Haven Regional Airport Authority Administrative Director Susan Godshall said Tweed is aiming to attract more businesspeople who do regular work in Asia.

“We hope to build our Asian market by providing a direct link to a regional hub on the East Coast,” Godshall said. “In order to be most helpful to all the residents of Southern Connecticut, we have to put our passengers on the international level.”

With direct flights between Detroit and Tokyo, Lamport said he thinks East Coast travelers will find it more convenient to fly from Detroit to New Haven rather than deal with the crowds at JFK or LaGuardia. And arriving at Tweed brings Connecticut natives closer to their final destination.

But Singapore native Samuel Chua ’08 said even with the Detroit option to New Haven, he would still continue to fly to New York. Between his 20 hours in the air, layovers, and transportation to and from airports, he said the difference between flying to New York and New Haven is negligible compared with the difference in convenience and cost.

“As [New York City] is such a major international hub, it is a lot more promising for budgeting student flights, especially long-range international ones,” Chua said. “And Northwest can’t beat the Asian carriers when it comes to food, service and price.”

After adding Delta Airlines as its second carrier last May, the infrastructure is already in place if Northwest decides to begin service to Tweed this spring. Tweed is well-equipped in terms of size and space to manage three, if not four, small airlines, Godshall said.

Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Tony Rescigno said community members have long thought Tweed should offer three airlines to provide their passengers with more flexibility. The city of New Haven, Yale University, the Airport Authority, and the Connecticut Regional Growth Partnership are working together on the Northwest initiative, the details of which should be finalized in 30 to 60 days, Rescigno said.

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