CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Non-stop flights to Orlando are returning to Yeager Airport.
Low-cost carrier PEOPLExpress announced Wednesday it will begin direct flights from Charleston to Orlando, Florida, Oct. 16 with regular fares starting at $79.
A 134-seat Boeing 737 will make the trip three times a week, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The flight will leave Orlando International Airport at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Charleston at 3:10 p.m. It will then depart Yeager at 3:50 p.m. for the return flight to Orlando, where it will land at 6 p.m.
For Yeager officials, the flight represents the return of a once-popular route for the airport.
“It means we are able to offer flights to the most popular vacation spot in the United States,” Rick Atkinson, the airport’s executive director, said following a press conference at the airport Wednesday morning.
AirTran Airways used to offer a direct flight to Orlando, home to popular resorts Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. However, the flight was discontinued in June 2012 following AirTran’s merger with Southwest Airlines.
The loss of the flight was a blow to the airport, which had to cut its budget after seeing passenger counts drop by about 20,000 in the year after the flight ended.
“When we had the service before, it was hugely popular and successful, but with changes in the airline industry, we lost that flight,” Atkinson said.
Jeff Erickson, CEO of PEOPLExpress, said the prior success of the route weighed heavily on the company’s decision to expand service to Charleston.
“The whole premise of PEOPLExpress is to serve the needs of the traveling public,” Erickson said. “With industry consolidation, a lot of cities that had service lost it. At our home in Newport News, that’s what happened and it happened here too.
“As we expand, (Charleston) was on the top of our list, that’s why we added it,” he said.
PEOPLExpress is a relatively new company, though the brand name has history..