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In this July 8, 2015, file photo, United Airlines planes are parked at their gates as another plane, top, taxis past them at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

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More flights, services mark Lovell Field experience

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some text Terry Hart, Chattanooga Airport President and CEO, speaks during an event celebrating the first direct flight to the New York area being offered by United Airlines.

United Airlines has started service from Chattanooga to the New York City area and to Chicago:

› Chattanooga to Newark: Departs 6 a.m. (arrives 8:03 a.m.) and 3 p.m. (arrives 5:06 p.m.)

› Chattanooga to Chicago: Departs 7 a.m. (arrives 7:53 a.m.) and 5:15 p.m. (arrives 6:10 p.m.)

› Newark to Chattanooga: Departs noon (arrives 2:29 p.m.) and 7:15 p.m. (arrives 9:47 p.m.)

› Chicago to Chattanooga: Departs 1:45 p.m. (arrives 4:35 p.m.) and 7:30 p.m. (arrives 10:20 p.m.)

Source: Chattanooga Airport

Nick Decosimo said the accounting firm he oversees in Chattanooga will use newly launched United Airlines nonstop flights to the New York area, saving the company time and money.

"We could easily send five, six, seven people at one time," the Chattanooga managing shareholder for Elliott Davis Decosimo said Wednesday, adding that the schedule has an early-morning departure from Lovell Field and a same-day return flight that could cut overnight hotel bills.

United started nonstop service between Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, and the carrier also began flights to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The airline will offer two nonstops a day to each city from Chattanooga on 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets.

Terry Hart, Lovell Field's chief executive, said the New York area service will trim passenger travel time in half to the Big Apple by cutting out a connecting flight.

The inaugural flights out of the city each had about 38 passengers, he said. Hart said the "easy part" was landing the new service, while "the hard part is to sustain it."

"United needs to be profitable for us to keep and grow the service," he said. The airline was offering an introductory round-trip fare of $268 to Newark Liberty with a Saturday stay, Hart said.

Michal Rutledge, who was flying back to New York on Wednesday with husband Jeff, said they have family in Chattanooga and are "ecstatic" about the flights.

"We need people to take advantage of it," she said.

About a dozen years ago, Chattanooga had nonstops to LaGuardia Airport in New York, but US Airways discontinued the flights.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, speaking to a large group of travelers and officials at the airport, said the nonstops are "truly a big deal."

"For economic development, we need these flights," he said.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said one word comes to mind — game-changer.

"It's important for economic developing positioning," he said. "We need to make sure business and leisure [travelers] support it."

Bill Kilbride, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, said the service is key for German companies such as Volkswagen and Wacker, which have major factories in the area. The carrier gives Chattanooga travelers access to United's Star Alliance network rewards program for frequent fliers. German airline Lufthansa is part of the network.

Beth Armstrong of United, too, said the service is more than just flying to the New York area. She cited the international destinations fliers can reach from Newark Liberty.

Charles Wood, the Chamber's vice president for economic development, said he was taking the initial flight for business in New York, where he will meet with consultants who do site selection work.

"I'll let them know about the direct service," he said.

Bob Doak, who heads the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he's looking at the service from the standpoint of wooing people to the Scenic City.

"When we're pursuing large conventions, all of our clients want to know about lift," he said. "This is another arrow in our quiver."

Dan Jacobson, who heads the Airport Authority, said Lovell Field officials are "constantly working to understand the travel needs of the community and strategically seek the best opportunities to foster economic growth." He noted that New York is the most frequently visited market by Chattanooga travelers that had been without nonstop flights.

"I'm excited about the impact the service will make," he said.

The airport also has nonstops to Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Detroit, Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., and Washington, D.C.

Lovell Field has seen record boardings the past two years, and it's expected to smash the all-time mark again this year and surpass 400,000 passenger boardings for the first time ever.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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