PITTSTON TWP. — Carl Beardsley, executive director at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, said air travelers like to have options.
And Thursday brought more options to those travelers with the start of non-stop flights to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Beardsley said the first flight left on time at 6 a.m. and arrived 14 minutes early at Dulles. And the first return flight arrived a half hour early in Avoca.
United Express now offers up to two round-trip flights daily between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Washington-Dulles using a 50-seat regional jet aircraft. United, together with United Express, operates approximately 225 daily flights out of Dulles.
On hand to celebrate the new service was Tom Reich, representing the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, who is a graduate of Dallas High School.
“I grew up in Dallas, so it’s good to be home,” Reich said. “Our airport is located in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. We like to say that we can get you where you want to go without the stress.”
Beardsley said more than 265,000 people go through Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (AVP) and the new service gives them convenience. He said rather than driving five hours to Washington, travelers can be there in 90 minutes.
Beardsley said that discussions with United, and many other airlines, about expanded air service from AVP have been ongoing for months.
“We are really excited to have United Express provide this service to our area business and leisure air travelers,” Beardsley said. “The new Washington-Dulles service will complement United’s existing service at AVP as customer demand continues to grow. We are also planning other announcements in the future, too.”
Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick M. O’Malley, chairman of the Bi-County Airport Board, said the new service is “big news” for everyone in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“Many of our business people and casual travelers drive back and forth regularly between here and Washington, D.C.,” O’Malley said. “Now it will be so convenient to hop on a plane from AVP and get to our nation’s capital in less than half the time. The benefits it will bring to Northeastern Pennsylvanian travelers will be great.”
Beardsley said in addition to the Washington-Dulles service, United Express will add a third daily flight between AVP and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) effective Thursday. United Express will offer up to five non-stop round-trips daily from AVP.
“This is a great opportunity for our region,” said Tim McGinley, Luzerne County Council member. “This is a great service for business travelers and for the community in general. And as we support service like this, we can build on it and look to other options.”
Over the past several months, AVP began daily round-trip service to Pittsburgh and added additional daily flights to Charlotte, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The addition of Washington flights makes the airport the only facility within 100 miles offering such air service to the nation’s capital.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.