Continental announces 2 new flights from LR Airline to carry customers to Cleveland hub

Continental Airlines announced Friday that it is adding nonstop service from Little Rock National Airport, Adams Field, and 11 other cities to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Two daily flights will be added at Little Rock National on 50-seat regional Embraer 145 jets starting May 4. Passengers will be able to connect with 300 flights in Cleveland to 100 destinations, including London and Paris.

"Cleveland is not the end of the line, so to speak," said Greg Hart, Continental's staff vice president of scheduling, during a telephone conference call Friday.

United Airways on Sept. 5 began offering nonstop flights from Little Rock National to Washington Dulles International Airport and to its hub in Denver. Philip Launius, spokesman for Little Rock National, said the flights were doing well outbound but had thinner passenger loads coming back, which he said was "not unusual for a brand-new flight." The airport is in talks with a number of other airlines, Launius said, to add nonstop flights to both the West Coast and Mexico.

It's also talking with carriers such as Air Tran and Jet Blue to see whether they will add service to Little Rock.

"It's never been easy to attain new flights," Launius said. "It's always good when you're successful," and Little Rock now has nonstop service to 22 airports in 19 cities.

Continental already has daily flights in Little Rock which go to its other two hubs - one to Newark, N.J. and seven to Houston - but both of those airports are congested. Continental is building up its Cleveland hub by 40 percent to take some of the traffic away from the others, Hart said.

"Expansion at Newark is pretty well limited in terms of the number of aircraft they can squeeze in and out of there," said Doug Abbey, partner at The Velocity Group, an aviation market research and consulting firm. Instead, it makes sense for Continental to build Cleveland with new flights - especially at airports like Little Rock which already connect to its other hubs.

"Another airline to another hub means more competition, it means more fare vigilance and ultimately more choices for consumers in Little Rock," Abbey said.

Continental added a flight to Cleveland from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in April 2004, but discontinued it after about eight months because it was not meeting the airline's targets, said David Messing, a spokesman for Continental. Little Rock is different, and now that Continental is building its Cleveland hub with more destinations, the airline expects success with the new route, he added.

"They're distinct markets, and we think that with the large population in the Little Rock area, that we're going to have a very strong outlook for succeeding with this," he said.

Launius said the airport has been talking with Continental about adding more flights for some time because Continental's hub routes are very popular.

However, flights to Newark are difficult to add, he said. Continental approached them with the Cleveland option, which Launius said he's confident will do well.

The new flights to Cleveland will depart daily at 7:11 a.m. and 2:51 p.m., returning at 12:50 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., and will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Continental also will add nonstop flights to Cleveland from Memphis; Tulsa; Charleston, S.C.; Kalamazoo and Lansing, Mich.; Green Bay, Wis.; Omaha, Neb.; Savannah, Ga.; Greensboro, N.C.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Birmingham, Ala.

This article was published 09/15/2007