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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

Budget carrier lands at St. Pete-Clearwater


Published:

— Resurrected airline brand PEOPLExpress made its first landing Friday night at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport on a new route from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia.

The newest budget carrier to offer service to Pinellas County will fly three times a week, linking tourists from coastal Virginia with local beaches and attractions.

“St. Pete was an important destination for the original PEOPLExpress in the 1980s and we’re delighted to return with the same great low fares and convenient nonstop service,” airline CEO Jeff Erickson said in a written statement.

An early pioneer in low-cost, no-frills airline flights, the original PEOPLExpress enjoyed brief popularity in the 1980s before shutting down.

Vision Airlines revived the brand name with a new fleet of Boeing 737-400s flying to Newark, Boston and Pittsburgh starting June 30, followed by several Florida destinations, including West Palm Beach, St. Pete/Clearwater and Orlando starting this fall.

Introductory fares for the Clearwater flight are advertised at $89 one-way, with departures on Sunday, Monday and Friday.

PEOPLExpress has only announced plans for a single route to and from coastal Virginia, but airport officials are hopeful there will be more to come.

“We certainly hope for expansion. As these things go, we’ll know when they tell us,” airport spokeswoman Michele Routh said.

Many of the Clearwater airport’s passengers are leisure travelers heading to the area from secondary airports across the nation, Routh said, but there are a few tourism spots that attract local residents on outbound flights, like Sun Country’s route to Beau Rivage resort in Gulfport/Biloxi, Miss.

The airport expects local travelers to take advantage of the new PEOPLExpress flight to explore historic sites in Virginia, such as Williamsburg.

The airport’s biggest carrier, Allegiant Airlines, recently announced three new routes to cities in Illinois and North Carolina that start in November.

jboatwright@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-1277

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