CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With barbecue sandwiches, cole slaw and cowboy hats, Yeager Airport officials celebrated the first 49 passengers to come off American Airline's new daily direct flight between Charleston and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
The Canadair Bombardier CRJ-200 touched down at 4:16 p.m. in Charleston Wednesday, following a two-hour, 971-mile flight between Yeager and American's international hub in Texas.
County officials were on hand for a reception at the American gate to greet passengers as they arrived.
"Any time we can get an airline like American Airlines to make a vote of confidence in our region like this, we're just thrilled," Commissioner Dave Hardy said.
"To have a direct flight from Dallas, Texas -- which is a major hub for American -- to the Kanawha Valley is a great accomplishment for Yeager Airport and our whole region, and it's also very good for economic development," he said.
American decided in March that it would replace its daily flight between Charleston and New York City with a daily flight to Dallas in June.
American's major international hub is in Dallas, and airline officials believed the Dallas-to-Charleston service would provide travelers more connection opportunities and maximize the airline's profit.
Anthony Gilmer, marketing and air services development coordinator for the airport, said travelers can get connecting flights to more than 170 destinations from the Dallas hub. That includes international destinations in Europe, Latin America, Japan, South Korea, the Caribbean and Canada.
Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson said that would open up opportunities not just for leisure travelers, but also for West Virginia businesses.
"West Virginia has had tremendous growth in exports in the last number of years, and this will help that continue because (Dallas-Fort Worth) is one of the major international gateways of the world," Atkinson said.