ExpressJet Airlines took flight Monday from Oklahoma with inaugural nonstop services to Albuquerque, N.M., and Ontario, Calif.
The Houston-based airline announced in January it would offer six new nonstop services from Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Beginning Monday, ExpressJet is serving a market that makes nonstop service a priority, the company said. "We're entering into a whole new era," ExpressJet supervisor Juan Escobar said.
Mariachi music filled the atmosphere around Gate 12 at Will Rogers World Airport as ExpressJet officials prepared to board travelers to Albuquerque. Although the 3:30 p.m. flight had four people and the 7:30 a.m. inaugural flight to Ontario had two passengers, Escobar is confident more travelers will fill the planes in the future. "The loads are light, but I'm happy," Escobar said. "We're expecting, with the summer coming up and being as busy as it always is and the airlines being as busy as they are, that we will be able to get some of that spillage, some of that overflow."
Richard Reeh expects the 50-seat planes ExpressJet has to offer will be filled long before summer.
"I'm confident that this ridership will go up," said Reeh, who was one of the four people on Flight 148 to Albuquerque. "This is a big step forward for Oklahoma City, as far as I'm concerned."
Reeh, who travels to New Mexico for business about three times a year, said the convenience of ExpressJet's nonstop service is enough to make him a regular passenger.
"I anticipate I will use them a lot," Reeh said.
After Great Plains filed for bankruptcy a few years ago, Reeh said he relied on Southwest or United to get him to Albuquerque.
"We'd have to go through Dallas or Denver, and who wants to go through Dallas or Denver?" Reeh said.
Steve Dryzmalla said convenience - which means no stops in Dallas, Denver or any other city but the final destination - is what ExpressJet is striving to bring its customers.
"We want to take the hassles out of travel," said Dryzmalla, ExpressJet's director of finance.
ExpressJet will launch its flight to Austin from Oklahoma City next week, and nonstop flights to San Antonio, San Diego and Sacramento, Calif., will begin in the following weeks.
"ExpressJet is really stepping up to the plate as they provide nonstop service in Oklahoma City," said Mark Kranenburg, director of Will Rogers World Airport. "This is a great tool for the rest of the city to use as we continue to grow and prosper as we have the last few years."
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