By Bill Power Business Reporter, The Chronicle Herald (Published 2010-06-02)
Premier Darrell Dexter welcomed US Airways to Nova Scotia on Tuesday, and said the arrival helps the province secure its place as Canada’s east coast gateway to the world.
An inaugural flight received a water cannon salute at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
Airline officials promised an aggressive move into the market, beginning with three flightsdaily to Philadelphia with a 50-seat regional jet operated by partner Air Wisconsin.
"When it comes to serving as a gateway, there is more to Nova Scotia than our ports. Wehave excellent air connections as well," Dexter said in an interview.
Year-round flights operated by Air Wisconsin will depart Halifax daily at 7:40 a.m., 1:15 p.m.and 5 p.m.
These are excellent departure times out of Halifax for business and leisure travellers headingto Philadelphia, said Michael Schmeltzer, the airline’s managing director of passenger sales.
He said US Airways is adding Halifax to its schedule as the U.S. air travel industry isbeginning to show increased health after the recession.
"The economy is getting better in general. Our corporate bookings are up about 30 per centover this time last year, so we’re pretty happy with the way things are going."
Schmeltzer said US Airways is the largest carrier operating out of Philadelphia, meaningthere are lots of amenities for travellers waiting for any of the estimated 426 connectingflights offered daily by the airline out of its northeast U.S. hub facility.
Philadelphia is the airline’s international gateway, and there are connecting overseas flights available.
"The fact you have U.S. Customs pre-clearance in Halifax will make trips through Philadelphiavery smooth," Schmeltzer said.
The Philadelphia connection comes as the industry in Nova Scotia is also beginning to showsigns of improvement.
"We’re registering an increase in passenger growth of two per cent over last year. We areseeing the recovery happening," said Jerry Staples, vice-president of marketing anddevelopment for the Halifax International Airport Authority.
Michelle Mohr, a spokeswoman for the airline based in Charlotte, N.C., said sample fareswere not prepared for the Halifax-Philadelphia service as there can be dramatic fluctuations depending on departure date.
"The best thing to do is visit the usairways.com website, since there can be significant farechanges for people in a position to change their schedule," she said.