United to launch service at Atlantic City airport

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (left) and Gov. Christie listen to United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek at Newark Liberty International Airport as Smisek announces that United will begin daily nonstop service to Atlantic City International Airport starting in April.
New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (left) and Gov. Christie listen to United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek at Newark Liberty International Airport as Smisek announces that United will begin daily nonstop service to Atlantic City International Airport starting in April. (MEL EVANS / AP)
Posted: November 16, 2013

In a move that New Jersey and local officials hope will boost the sagging fortunes of Atlantic City gaming and tourism in the region, United Airlines said Thursday that it would launch daily nonstop service to and from its two largest hub airports, Chicago and Houston, at Atlantic City International Airport beginning in April.

The announcement was made by Gov. Christie and United CEO Jeff Smisek during a news conference at Newark Liberty International Airport, a major United hub.

"This is an investment in South Jersey," Smisek said. "United's new Atlantic City service will drive business, tourism, and economic development throughout the southern part of the state."

For a place often called "the little airport that could" - the Egg Harbor Township facility's volume of flights is small compared with airports in Philadelphia and the New York metropolitan area, but it has had recent updates and expansions - Christie noted that the new service "speaks volumes that a company like United Airlines recognizes the full and future potential of Atlantic City International Airport."

"The decision to bring air service to the seaside resort opens Atlantic City and Atlantic City International to the world while expanding travel service opportunities for the people of the South Jersey region," the governor said.

The announcement comes about 41/2 months after the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over management of Atlantic City International, known by the airport designation ACY, under an agreement reached with the South Jersey Transportation Authority. The transportation authority operates the Atlantic City Expressway and had run the airport.

Officials hoped that the Port Authority's ties with major carriers at Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International Airports might enhance the chances of attracting a major airline to Atlantic City.

Atlantic City travelers had been starved for flights since AirTran ceased operations at the airport last year and only one commercial airline, budget carrier Spirit Airlines, remained.

Spirit operates just 27 flights a day in and out of ACY, mostly to Florida and other locales in the South. With a 10-gate terminal, officials say, ACY could handle 10 times that number daily.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said the new service could be the shot in the arm the region needs to recover from the recession and the effects of Hurricane Sandy a year ago, because it will provide easier access from other parts of the United States.

"We need to make it convenient for people to enjoy their time here," Sweeney said, noting that it can take travelers arriving at Philadelphia International more than 90 minutes to get to Atlantic City's casinos or the beaches of the Jersey Shore.

"Having an airline like United in South Jersey is a tremendous opportunity for the entire South Jersey region," he said. "This will not only provide an economic boost for Atlantic City and the region, but will also help alleviate congested air space in the Philadelphia and New York areas."

Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, whose Second District includes the airport and who serves as chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, called the announcement a "win-win for South Jersey."

"I've long said that ACY is an attractive option for additional commercial carrier service, with its updated facilities, proximity to Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore," LoBiondo said.

"For our tourism-based economy, connecting additional regions of the country to South Jersey is critical and will bring additional economic opportunities and the potential for new jobs," he said.

Service is to begin April 1, with two arrivals and two departures daily between Atlantic City and Chicago, and two arrivals and two departures between Atlantic City and Houston each day.

Booked on a Spirit Flight leaving for Fort Myers, Fla., on Thursday, Debbie Weinstein of Turnersville said she was "thrilled" to hear about the new service.

"With the hubs of Houston and Chicago, now you'll probably be able to go just about anywhere from this airport," Weinstein said. "We love the convenience of ACY vs. Philadelphia even though we live so close to Philly. We use it as often as we can because it's just nicer here for parking and checking in."


609-652-8382 @JacquelineUrgo jurgo@phillynews.com. www.Inquirer.com/downashore

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