The first American Eagle flight completed its maiden voyage from Tweed-New Haven Airport to Philadelphia International Airport on Wednesday, fully booked with 50 passengers aboard.

The new direct jet service to Philadelphia, with three flights every day, will provide larger capacity jets to Tweed airport. On Nov. 29, American Airlines will begin replacing its 37-seat, Dash 8 turboprop service with 50-seat, CRJ-200 regional jet aircraft on a permanent basis. The jet upgrade will offer New Haven passengers a smoother, quieter jet with 78 additional seats a day for passengers traveling to and from Philadelphia.

“Today’s launch … moves [Tweed-New Haven Airport] one step closer to a full-service airport in terms of more flights per day and additional destination cities,” Mayor Toni Harp said in an email to the News. “In turn, a more viable Tweed would be a convenient windfall to residents of the region, sparing them repeated trips to more remote airports, and it would provide a boon to other travelers who represent New Haven businesses and higher education institutions.”

In order to further expand service from Tweed-New Haven, City Hall is hoping to increase the length of the runway to allow planes to fly to more destinations, New Haven Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson SOM ’81 said. After the development of a longer runway is approved — which the airport is working to accomplish by challenging a state law that prohibits an expansion — the airport will have service to destinations such as Fort Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Philadelphia is closer to New Haven than other hubs, so the 50-passenger jets that flew on Wednesday have less fuel and are able to take off on the current runway without difficulty, Nemerson said.

The process of seeking approval for more runway space is a complicated one, involving negotiations with the neighbors living in the same area as the airport and the state of Connecticut, according to Nemerson. He said he hopes the development of the longer runway will be accomplished in the next few years.

“A New Haven airport with nonstop service to Chicago, Washington and Florida would cement New Haven’s place as Connecticut’s most accommodating place to live, work, study and visit,” Harp wrote to the News.

Nemerson added that companies often move to areas that are 20 minutes away from a major airport, in order to host and attend conferences. Therefore, this direct service to major cities could make the Elm City a more attractive place for businesses.

Tweed-New Haven Airport Executive Director Tim Larson said the expanded service to Philadelphia will help college students travel. He added that there are 10 colleges in the airport’s catchment area, so the development of the airport could help many people who do not live in Connecticut travel to their hometowns. Due to the replacement of propeller planes with jets, the airport is now able to accommodate more passengers than ever before, and it plans to continue to grow that service, Larson said.

Tweed-New Haven Airport is located at 155 Burr St.

Christina Carrafiell |