Airline service returns to ILG|
Delta Air Lines plans to start round-trip flights today between Wilmington's New Castle County Airport and Atlanta for Delaware's first commercial air service since 2000. The flights, scheduled for twice a day in each direction, will use 40-seat regional jets operated by Delta subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines. Airline officials said that if the service was successful, Delta might also start flying from Wilmington to its other hubs, in Cincinnati and at New York's Kennedy International Airport. A delighted group of six Delaware officials, led by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, celebrated the resumption of air service at an open house yesterday at the airport, on Routes 13 and 40, just south of the Wilmington city limits. One by one, the government and business leaders took turns thanking Delta for freeing the state's residents from being forced to go to Philadelphia or Baltimore for business or leisure travel. The New Castle airport offers "easy access to the major cities of the Mid-Atlantic region without the hassles and congestion of some of the airports in the vicinity," said Minner, referring to Philadelphia International Airport, 27 miles to the north. Christopher Coons, the New Castle County executive, said almost 800,000 Delaware residents took commercial airline flights from Philadelphia or Baltimore last year. "We now have to do our part and fly," he said. The officials also cited another advantage of the airport: free parking, which may attract Philadelphia airport users tired of hunting for open spaces in the often-filled garages and nearby lots. The Wilmington airport, which is operated by the Delaware River & Bay Authority, has had scheduled flights off and on for years, the last time in the late 1990s from Shuttle America Airlines. The airline left the airport in 2000, when it became a US Airways Express commuter carrier. Stephen D. Williams, airports director for the authority, said he believed the Shuttle America service did not last because the airline was undercapitalized and unaffiliated with a major airline to which it could feed traffic. Also, he said, the carrier flew only to Hartford, Conn., and Buffalo while Delta's service will be to its Atlanta hub, one of the world's busiest connecting points. Joe Esposito, Delta's managing director of schedule planning, said the addition of Wilmington service was part of Delta's Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan and would not change once the carrier emerged from court protection. Delta's round-trip fare between Wilmington and Atlanta was $200, including tax, yesterday for the nonstop flights in coming weeks, according to the Orbitz travel Web site. The flights are scheduled to depart from Wilmington at 5:40 a.m. and 3:50 p.m. and from Atlanta at 1:20 and 6:40 p.m.