JetBlue Airways Corp. will begin daily nonstop flights from Stewart International Airport to Florida in December, giving another boost to officials trying to create an alternative to crowded downstate terminals.
Daily flights from the low-fare carrier to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando will begin Dec. 19, with second flights to the two cities beginning Jan. 5, the airline announced Wednesday. A daily nonstop flight to West Palm Beach also will begin Jan. 5.
JetBlue said it will become the largest airline serving Stewart, a Hudson Valley airport 55 miles north of New York City.
The announcement comes three weeks after another low-fare carrier, AirTran Airways, said it would launch service from Stewart to Georgia and Florida beginning in January.
The recent announcements were welcomed by proponents of Stewart, who have had mixed success in marketing the former Air Force base as an alternative to the busy trio of metropolitan area airports: Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark. Local officials say Stewart is a convenient departure point for passengers living in Westchester County and points north in the Hudson Valley.
Sen. Charles Schumer said JetBlue will be a 'shot in the arm' for the region, bringing new visitors and businesses.
'I have big plans for Stewart, and will continue to work to build up the airport for years to come,' Schumer said in a prepared release.
National Express Group, the British company that has leased the airport from the state since 2000, is trying to sell the rights.
The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday that though the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey passed up an invitation to bid on the remainder of the 99-year lease, some senior officials with the authority want to intervene before a new operator takes over.
Authority spokesman Marc La Vorgna told The Associated Press Wednesday that while officials believe Stewart has the potential to be an important piece of the region's 'air traffic puzzle,' he would not comment specifically on the lease.
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