Continental Drops Boston Service from Lehigh

Feb. 14 -- Lehigh Valley International Airport will lose its nonstop flights to Boston next month.

Continental Airlines initiated the twice-daily flights to Boston from LVIA in April 2005. It was the last new service that a major airline has launched at LVIA.

The flights will end on March 1, according to Continental's online reservation system.

The Boston service had been absent from LVIA for two years before Continental restarted it.

Airport officials said they are talking to other airlines about picking up the route. But the airport's top official, George Doughty, said it's likely there will be a gap between the end of Continental's flights and the beginning of another airline's service. He declined to say which airlines he is talking to.

"It's popular," Doughty said. "It's a destination people want to go to, and it is more difficult to get to than any other Eastern city by car."

Doughty said an airline official told him Continental is reducing its Boston-based service because it wants to expand its Cleveland hub. Continental flies to Cleveland from LVIA, so the change won't help the airport.

Continental on Tuesday did not return calls seeking comment.

Boston is one of 13 cities to which travelers can fly directly from LVIA. Other airlines that serve LVIA also fly to Boston, but they do not offer nonstop service from here. Local travel agents and passengers say nonstop service is crucial.

Aside from the obvious convenience, nonstop flights appeal to people who are older or who have a disability because they do not want to change planes.

The service to Boston began two years ago with three flights a day. The airline uses 19-seat turbo prop airplanes.

Other airlines have flown to Boston from here in the past. US Airways operated nonstop service from LVIA to Boston until 2003.

LVIA had 788,511 passengers last year, down 5 percent from the year before.

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