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Yeager Airport seeks to make good impression

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Officials at Charleston's Yeager Airport are hoping to give visitors a big-city airport feel in the heart of Appalachia.

In the last year, officials have unveiled many amenities designed to improve guest service and give visitors a welcoming first impression to the state.

While the airport located just north of Charleston may not be the size of bigger city airports, officials say they want to make sure they have the full range of services those airports have to offer.

"Nationally, we're probably considered a small to medium-sized airport, but we want to have big-airport amenities," said Brian Belcher, Yeager's director of marketing.

"We're the largest airport in West Virginia, and we want the customers to feel like we're on par with everyone else around the country - and we try to be better, if at all possible," he said.

In December, airport officials announced a new deal with Delta Air Lines to bring daily full-size jet service back to the airport.

The Delta DC-9 daily flights between Charleston and Atlanta, Ga., will carry 125 passengers with 12 of those seats first class.

The mainline service will be the first time Yeager has had a flight offering first-class seats since U.S. Airways discontinued its mainline service following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Because Atlanta is an international flight hub, that will help domestic and international travelers fly first class to and from West Virginia

"If you're a business person or just have the money and want to fly first class from Charleston to Atlanta or even Charleston to Paris, you can now do that first class there and back," Belcher said.

"Now you can get it all the way, which means a lot, because when we had a first-class cabin before it was very popular with people," he said. "U.S. Airways had a ton of people who used it, and we're happy to have it back."

The flights, which begin March 2, aren't the only improvement designed to cater to business travelers.

Airport authority officials recently worked with officials at Executive Air on a $700,000 renovation to the 2,600-square-foot private flight terminal.

Executive Air and its staff of about 35 employees help manage 10 to 15 private flights - mostly carrying business executives - in and out of the terminal each day.

The renovations were designed to impress business travelers flying into the city for meetings.

The customer service area was remodeled using native West Virginia hardwood and stone. A new customer service counter was installed along with leather couches, flat-screen televisions and expanded and remodeled restrooms.

Workers also built a new conference room and business center encased by glass walls.

In the main passenger terminal, airport officials worked with Better Foods Inc. - owner of the Tudor's Biscuit World and Gino's Pizza chains - to open the new Kanawha Cafe, a private eatery inside the airport's security gates.

While the airport had offered eating and drinking options outside the security gates, food options were sparse once passengers cleared the gates.

Belcher said the decision to open a cafe inside the security gates was driven by customer requests. Passengers find it easier to sit back and relax once they've cleared security.

Since the facility opened in January, Belcher said the reaction from passengers has been overwhelmingly positive.

"I think it's been a great addition to the airport," he said. "We've had many comments in the terminal, and online - on Facebook and Twitter - we've had a ton of positive comments."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-5148.



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