New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

American Airlines is ending Tweed flights

Airport has no carrier for October

- By Mark Zaretsky mark.zaretsky@hearstmedi­

NEW HAVEN — Lots of attention has focused in recent months on how lively Tweed New Haven Regional Airport will get in early November when a new start-up airline, Avelo Airlines, begins flights to what by the end of the year will be five Florida cities.

But first it will be very quiet at Tweed in October — beginning Friday.

American Airlines — which for years has been Tweed’s one constant commercial airline after taking over the route when it merged with US Airways in 2013 — will fly its last American Eagle flights between Tweed and Philadelph­ia Internatio­nal Airport Thursday.

American suspended flights last October, then announced in November it would stop service to New Haven completely. It later announced on Dec. 22 that it would resume flights Jan. 5. It agreed to maintain the service at least through Sept. 30 as a string attached to federal stimulus assistance.

Representa­tives for American could not immediatel­y be reached for comment.

Tweed is not the only airport American is ceasing service to as Thursday. It also will end service to the Williamspo­rt, Penn. airport, among others. Williamspo­rt has been scrambling to attract a new airline.

Tweed New Haven Airport Authority Executive Director Sean Scanlon said he wouldn’t rule out the possibilit­y of American resuming service to Tweed at some point.

“I think as of the last conversati­on that we had with them, through somebody who was trying to help us with this,” American said “they would reevaluate it in the early part of next year,” Scanlon said.

American’s decision to stop serving Tweed has more to do with American’s own pandemicre­lated issues than Tweed’s performanc­e as a destinatio­n, he said.

“Our load factors were good,” Scanlon said, pointing out that American’s flights to and from Tweed have been 73 percent full

this month and were 77 percent full last month.

“But what’s happening is that there is a global pilot and equipment shortage,” he said. “I know that they will definitely” be looking at Tweed again, particular­ly after it extends its runway from the current 5,600 feet to 6,635 feet, he said.

For now, “they are experienci­ng some significan­t challenges nationally and my conversati­ons with them have essentiall­y revolved around the fact that they do hope to reserve service at some point in the future here at HVN,” Scanlon said. “I have every confidence that they are going to do that, but they are going to be taking a pause here while they sort out some things on their own nationally.

“I think their decision to pause is more a reflection on things that are happening globally than things that are happening here at HVN,” he said.

As far as commercial service goes, “For the month of October it’s nobody,” Scanlone said. “But that ended up being a silver lining because we have a lot of constructi­on to do” to get the existing terminal buildings ready for the new service by Avelo, which made Tweed its first East Coast base.

“Now we can do a lot of constructi­on,” he said.

Avelo will begin service to four Florida destinatio­ns in November, beginning with flight to and from Orlando on Nov. 3, and then adding Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and

Fort Myers in the days that follow. It will begin flights to and from Palm Beach on Dec. 16.

Tweed’s long-term plan calls for a broader partnershi­p with its contract operator, Avports LLC, under which Avports will invest an initial $70 million, and up to $100 million, to extend Tweed’s runway from 5,600 feet to 6,635 feet and build a new, 74,000square-foot, carbon-neutral terminal with 4-6 departure gates on the East Haven side of the airport. A new entrance would be constructe­d off Proto Drive in East Haven.

Avports also would be fully responsibl­e for Tweed’s operating expenses, eliminatin­g the need for $1.8 million in state and city subsidies.

For the near term, Avports and the authority, with a $1.2 million contributi­on from Avelo, plan to renovate the existing terminal and the airport’s older administra­tion building into departure and arrival terminals and add 271 parking spaces and several temporary trailers.

The price for that project recently more than doubled from $5 million to up to $11 million.

 ?? AvPORTS / Contribute­d photo ?? An American Eagle Embraer E175 regional jet, just arrived from Philadelph­ia, parked on the tarmac at Tweed New Haven Regional Airport.on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2019.
AvPORTS / Contribute­d photo An American Eagle Embraer E175 regional jet, just arrived from Philadelph­ia, parked on the tarmac at Tweed New Haven Regional Airport.on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2019.

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