AirTran expands nonstop Buffalo-Fort Myers service; Eight flights to Florida will be offered each week

A high volume of advance bookings has caused AirTran Airways to beef-up its new, nonstop service from Buffalo to Fort Myers, Fla. -- four months ahead of its maiden voyage.

The airline confirmed Monday that, starting February 14, it will offer eight nonstop flights per week between Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Southwest Florida International Airport. Earlier this month, AirTran announced it would offer a single Saturday-only flight beginning in mid-February.

"We often put Saturday-only flights into the system and see how they book, and this one booked extremely well," said AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver. "We know people in New York like to fly to Florida, so this will be a year-round flight as long as it continues to perform well."

Under the beefed-up flight roster, AirTran will offer nonstop flights from Buffalo to Fort Myers departing daily at 8 a.m., arriving in the Florida city at 10:50 a.m. A daily nonstop return flight will depart Fort Myers at 6:59 p.m. and get back to Buffalo at 9:39 p.m.

On Saturdays, AirTran has scheduled a second nonstop flight leaving Buffalo at 10:50 a.m. A second return flight from Fort Myers will depart for Buffalo at 2:10 p.m.

"The fact that we have scheduled two Saturday flights shows you how strong the Buffalo demand is," Graham-Weaver said.

One-way ticket prices range from a $79 bargain-basement Internet special, to $416 for a business-class seat.

Buffalo, which has never had nonstop service to Fort Myers, is also poised to get a new seasonal JetBlue Airways flight. JetBlue announced Oct. 23 it will offer daily nonstop service starting Jan. 8, running through April 30.

JetBlue is also boosting its nonstop menu from Buffalo to Florida with a new daily flight to Fort Lauderdale starting Thursday, and an Orlando flight which will begin Nov. 15.

Also, Myrtle Beach Direct Air and Tours has announced it will offer three nonstop flights a week from Niagara Falls International Airport to Fort Lauderdale starting Dec. 20.

"The airlines are responding to the incredible demand here for direct flight to Florida. It's very exciting and my sense is we'll continue to see additional flights to those very popular destinations," said Lawrence Meckler, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Western New York and Southern Ontario travelers are already enjoying three daily nonstop flights to Orlando, and one to Tampa, via Southwest Airlines. AirTran also has a daily nonstop to Orlando.

Meckler said with the roster of nonstop Florida flights fleshing out, he'd like to see new direct service heading west.

"Our next goal is to improve nonstop service to the Midwest and western cities. I would anticipate that could happen in 2008," he said.

Currently, only Southwest offers nonstop flights to the west, with service to Las Vegas and Phoenix.