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Direct flights between Charleston, Dallas-Fort Worth take off

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.

He said with coal being exported around the world and the state's relationships with businesses like Toyota, convenient travel options are essential to maintaining those international ties.

"People who are going to do business with us from all over the world need to be able to get here," Atkinson said.

"Email and video conferencing only take you so far," he said. "The face-to-face interaction is what drives those sales, makes those deals happen and brings about new investment and growth."

Officials also said the new connection is ideal given West Virginia University's new affiliation with the Big 12 Conference.

Atkinson said the Dallas hub will help WVU fans and fans from visiting teams make connecting flights to and from games.

"I think American serves every airport closest to the (Big 12) campuses -- even Manhattan, Kansas and Waco, Texas," he said. "So football fans will be able to have a one-stop connection."

The daily flights leave Dallas at 1:05 p.m. and are scheduled to arrive at Yeager at 4:30 p.m. each day. The flight drops off and then boards new passengers to depart Yeager at 5 p.m. for the return trip to Dallas.

According to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com, the average fare for Wednesday's inaugural flight to Charleston was $209.53.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

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