NEW HAVEN, Conn. — With American Airlines' departure last week, Tweed-New Haven Airport is now without a commercial air carrier, but airport officials are looking at it as a bit of a blessing.
Like most commercial air carriers, American Airlines has experienced a very bumpy ride during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"And while our bookings were better than they were even before Covid, here in New Haven, they (American) have a national pilot and equipment shortage that I think is taking a big toll on them," said Sean Scanlon, the Executive Director of the Tweed New haven Airport Authority.
So American decided to re-allocate its resources to other destinations. The decision had nothing to do with flight bookings, Scanlon said. Over the past couple of months, an average of 75% of American's seats were booked on flights to and from New Haven, he said.
"Compare that to last April when we had maybe one or two people getting on a plane a day," Scanlon noted. "Every month for the last six months we’ve gone up and up by about five percentage points."
It’s actually a bit of a blessing that last Thursday, September 30, was American‘s last day of service to Tweed because of $10 million of construction, inside and outside the terminal, is underway in preparation of Avelo Airlines nonstop service to Florida beginning in November.
"They are doing five nonstop different flights to five different cities in Florida," said Scanlon. "Originally that was four, but we’ve already extended it to five given how well the bookings are going."
Roughly $10 million in improvements are being made in and around the existing terminal in time for Avelo's debut on November 3.
"Better curbside access, better parking, a food and beverage operator for the first time ever at the airport," said Scanlon.
The following is a list of start dates for non-stop service from Tweed to Florida:
Orlando: Nov. 3
Fort Lauderdale: Nov. 5
Tampa Bay: Nov. 8
Fort Myers: Nov. 11
Palm Beach: Dec. 16
Scanlon says the long-term goal of the Airport Authority is to expand the existing runway and construct a brand-new terminal on the East Haven side of the airport within three years.
"I think it’s important for people to remember people of been trying to do this for decades," said Scanlon, who is also at State Representative. "It’s really hard. What we’re doing is not easy, but we are making more progress than we have ever made here."
Avelo has committed to making 100 hires to staff Tweed.
With Avelo offering at least five no-stop flights a day to Florida destinations by December, it will mark the first time since briefly in the 1990's that their airport saw that much commercial activity, Scanlon added.
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