MORE NONSTOP FLIGHTS Eppley adding Orlando, Cleveland

It may be easier to get to Disney World than Disneyland from Omaha next year. Starting in March, Southwest Airlines will begin offering a nonstop flight from Omaha's Eppley Airfield to Orlando, Fla., on Saturdays. But after Jan. 6, Midwest...


It may be easier to get to Disney World than Disneyland from Omaha next year.

Starting in March, Southwest Airlines will begin offering a nonstop flight from Omaha's Eppley Airfield to Orlando, Fla., on Saturdays.

But after Jan. 6, Midwest Airlines will stop offering its daily nonstop flight from Omaha to Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX. That is the only nonstop flight from Omaha to LAX, which is northwest of Disneyland.

Midwest Airlines, which used to be called Midwest Express, began offering the service this spring after canceling its two nonstop flights to LAX after the terrorist attacks in 2001.

Michael Brophy, a spokesman for the airline, said the route "did not generate the adequate financial return" to continue operation.

Don Smithey, executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority, said airport officials are trying to persuade another airline to fly nonstop to LAX.

"The economics just weren't working for them," he said of Midwest Airlines. "We're exploring the other carriers to see if there's interest" in continuing the flight.

Although the LAX nonstop flight is being discontinued, passengers from Omaha still can take a nonstop flight to the Los Angeles area if they fly into Ontario, Calif., an L.A. suburb.

However, Brent Bowen, with the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said passengers have more connection options from major airports, so nonstop flights to major airports such as LAX are crucial.

"It's important for the business community in Omaha to have access to key airports that go to a vast number of international destinations," Bowen said. "Going to the Asian-Pacific area, (LAX) absolutely has the best number of flight options."

The main Los Angeles airport also is a key connection for families traveling to Hawaii on vacation. The high number of airlines at LAX provides competition for flights to Hawaii, and that means more travel and price options for families, Bowen said.

Smithey said that although LAX is attractive for its connections, the airport is "very congested."

Heavy traffic at LAX has led to a rise in the use of smaller airports in the Los Angeles area, including Ontario, Santa Ana, Burbank and Long Beach.

ExpressJet flies two nonstop flights a day from Omaha to the Ontario airport, which is an eastern suburb of Los Angeles about 40 miles from LAX. Those flights depart at 7:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

David Brown, president of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said that although it's preferable to also have a nonstop flight to LAX, the nonstop flights to Ontario still can serve business travelers' needs.

"We're thankful that ExpressJet is still there," he said, adding he's confident that Eppley leaders will do what they can to get another nonstop LAX flight.

ExpressJet also offers two nonstop flights each day from Omaha to San Diego.

ExpressJet spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas said the company has no schedule changes planned for its nonstop flights from Omaha to California.

Although the LAX flight is going away, Eppley Airfield is gaining other nonstop flights.

Southwest Airlines' new nonstop flight to Orlando will leave at 8:10 a.m. every Saturday.

"Orlando is a family vacation spot, and Saturday service is always very popular with those spots," said Paul Jensen, Southwest Airlines' station manager at Eppley.

For those interested in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Continental Express will begin offering three nonstop daily flights from Omaha to Cleveland in March.

ExpressJet this month added a daily nonstop flight from Eppley to Tucson, Ariz. The Tucson flight leaves at 2 p.m.

"We try to connect small-tomidsized cities that don't have nonstop service currently," Nicholas said.

Bowen said the added nonstop flights are positive for Eppley Airfield.

All of the new flights have caused Eppley officials to look at expanding space for overnight airplane parking.

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