News Article - June 29, 2007

Delta says New Castle Airport flights are gradually taking off  
  On previous trips to Atlanta to visit family, Charles and Irene Falco usually flew from Philadelphia International Airport or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The couple wasn't overjoyed about the big airports' big crowds and headaches, or the two hours it takes to reach Baltimore or Philadelphia from their home in Milford. So the Falcos figured they'd give New Castle Airport a try.

   On Thursday afternoon, they arrived for their 5:30 p.m. flight to Atlanta, after a drive that took about an hour. They parked steps from the terminal and walked right up to the Delta Connection counter. "This is wonderful," Charles Falco, 78, said. "It's just like the old days, like 50 years ago."

   A growing number of people are discovering what New Castle Airport officials tout as the airport's charms -- free parking, drive-up convenience and service so friendly, Delta employees have been known to phone late-running passengers to make sure they're still planning on catching a flight. On Thursday, officials from the airport and Delta Air Lines held a celebration at the airport to commemorate the completion of Delta's first year of service here.

   "This is a wonderful airport, and more and more people are going to discover it," said J. Harry Feldman, executive director of the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau. Delta offers the airport's only scheduled commercial service. Its Delta Connection, which is operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, flies two daily non-stops between New Castle Airport and Delta's hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, from which passengers can connect to almost 300 U.S. and international cities.

   More than 25,000 passengers have flown into or out of the airport on Delta Connection flights since service started June 29, 2006, marking the return of scheduled commercial flights after a six-year absence. The two flights are running at about 80 percent of capacity, and business has been strong enough that Delta switched to 50-passenger jets from the 40-passenger jets it had been using on the Wilmington-Atlanta route.

   The business community has embraced Delta's service, said Stephen Williams, director of airports for the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which operates the airport. About 60 percent of the commercial passengers flying from New Castle travel on business, Williams said. Williams said the airport and Delta officials are currently negotiating a three-year extension of the carrier's lease, and he'd like to see Delta add a third daily Atlanta flight. "We have to promote the convenience, the accessibility and the hassle-free experience," Williams said.

   Passengers may have to pay more for the convenience of not having to drive to Philadelphia or Baltimore. Delta's Web site showed that a round-trip ticket from New Castle Airport to Atlanta with a morning outbound flight on Tuesday, July 31 and an afternoon return a week later cost $329 plus tax. Round trips for the same dates and comparable times could be booked on for as low as $168 plus tax from Philadelphia and $156 plus tax from Baltimore. Jay Wagner, 55, a nuclear engineer who works in Salem County, N.J., is one of those travelers airport officials hope to reach with their message of convenience.

   "I don't like the hassle of parking a vehicle at Philadelphia," Wagner said as he waited Thursday for his first flight from the airport. "I've been in and out of Philadelphia, so I know what it's like. I wanted to give a smaller airport a shot."

Source - Deleware Online