Just five weeks after Will Rogers World Airport officials pitched nonstop service between Oklahoma City and Cleveland, Continental Airlines is obliging.
Continental announced Tuesday it would begin two nonstop flights to and from its Cleveland hub starting Sept. 30.
The news comes just weeks after airport director Mark Kranenburg and other officials spoke to Continental at the Airports Council International North America JumpStart event June 20 in Tucson, Ariz.
JumpStart is an air service development program that allows airport leaders to pitch their markets to airlines.
Although the networking event often leads to new air service, Oklahoma City's quick turnaround with the Cleveland service is something to be proud of, consultant Kevin Schorr said.
"It really is definitely one of the quickest successes we've had from these conferences," said Schorr, vice president of Virginia-based Campbell-Hill Aviation Group, which advises Will Rogers and other airports on issues such as acquiring increased services.
The Oklahoma City-Cleveland route was a service that had been on Continental's radar for some time, Schorr said. He said Oklahoma City's economy and air travel market are strong, and those factors haven't gone unnoticed in the industry.
"The airlines are starting to take notice of all the things that are going on in Oklahoma City," Schorr said. "When we say jump, the airlines don't say how high, they just jump."
The Cleveland service is Will Rogers World Airport's 11th new nonstop destination since September, bringing the airport's total nonstop destinations to 26. Continental's regional partner, Continental Express, will operate the nonstop service with 50-seat Embraer 145 regional jets.
Continental spokeswoman Mary Clark said the service compliments the airline's existing service from Oklahoma City, which includes Houston and the New York area.
Kranenburg said the Cleveland route also will broaden travelers' connection options.
"It really does just open up the entire northeast quadrant," he said.
Continental's Cleveland hub offers 240 daily departures to more than 80 destinations.
Schorr said he doubts the Oklahoma City-Cleveland route has a big enough market to warrant another airline to follow in Continental's footsteps, but he expects Will Rogers to continue its expansion of nonstop service.
"Oklahoma City has been very aggressive with talking to airlines," Schorr said. "And as you can see, they are listening."
Ja'Rena Lunsford: 475-3126, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Source: Continental Airlines