VIENNA - About 140 passengers quickly passed through boarding procedures and security screenings Wednesday afternoon at Youngstown Warren Regional Airport in anticipation of a smooth, nonstop inaugural flight to Punta Gorda in southwest Florida.
Airport and Allegiant Air officials are hoping the new destination will be popular among not only vacationers heading for south Florida, but also for regional residents who head to their condominiums and other winter housing in the Fort Myers area.
Preparing to board the first YNG to PGD flight set for a 3:40 p.m. takeoff was Howland orthodontist Dr. James Martuccio who was jetting off to his Fort Myers condominium.
"It's fantastic," Martuccio said. "I think it took me less than 10 minutes to get here. This is really convenient."
In the past, Martuccio said he has driven to Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Akron to catch flights to Florida, leading to higher commitments of fuel, parking fees and time. Still, Martuccio admitted he has not yet booked future Youngstown flights because he wanted to try out the airline before committing again.
Three sisters from Bristol, Paulette Earnest, Jan Michalovic and Nancy Mahan, also were at the airport Wednesday waiting to take advantage of low airfares and the close proximity to make an annual trek to visit their 84-year-old aunt in Fort Myers.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Brenda J. Linert
The inaugural Allegiant Air flight from Youngstown Warren Regional Airport to Punta Gorda, Fla., pulls up to the jetway minutes after arrival at the Vienna airport.
"We were excited when they announced they were going to have this flight down there," Earnest said.
Airport Director of Aviation Dan Dickten described the project as a longtime coming, noting talks to bringing the flight to the Vienna have been ongoing for about two years.
The twice-weekly Allegiant Air non-stop flights will use a 166-seat MD-83 jet. The Las Vegas-based airline, which has been flying regularly out of the local airport since May 2006, in August announced the addition of the flight to the new southwest Florida destination located midway between Fort Myers and Sarasota.
Dickten and has been in discussions with Allegiant about the possibility of adding more nonstop flights to high-demand destinations like to Las Vegas.
Wednesday he said the talks are ongoing, but he could not offer any confirmation.
"There's an old saying that you shouldn't wait for your boat to come in. We are not waiting for our airplane to fly in. We are flying out to meet it with a lot of the work we are doing to attract these airlines," Dickten said.
That also includes continuing talks with Delta and American Airlines about adding daily connector flights, most likely to Chicago, he said. Dickten said talks are progressing, but he could not offer any specifics.
Punta Gorda Airport becomes the fourth Allegiant nonstop destination from Youngstown. Others include Myrtle Beach, S.C., Orlando, Fla., and St. Petersburg, Fla.