By Carla Vianna | The Gainesville Sun
Gainesville Regional Airport is pushing ahead for a direct flight to New York's LaGuardia airport, despite a discouraging response from one airline.
A few months ago, the airport created the Travel Bank initiative, encouraging frequent fliers to pledge the amount of money they would spend annually on flights from Gainesville to New York City to serve as an incentive for an airline to consider offering direct service. Travelers would have individual accounts that they would draw from to pay for tickets.
The number of Gainesville airport travelers to fly to New York increased about 16 percent in the past year, said airport spokeswoman Laura Aguiar.
“This is something that our community has definitely asked for,” she said. “The trick to New York is that gate space is filled and packed to capacity. Every city in the country wants direct routes to New York.”
A meeting with Delta Air Lines on Oct. 1 has put the Travel Bank initiative on hold, she said.
“While we were hoping for a promising response on the possibility of adding a New York City route, we learned that it's not how Delta officials would handle increased New York City traffic even if gate space were to become available somewhere in the Big Apple,” Aguiar said.
Instead, Delta would add to its service between LaGuardia and the Atlanta airport.
For Gainesville airport travelers, LaGuardia is second most frequent final destination behind Miami, which only took the top spot after American Airlines began offering direct service in late 2010.
The airport is planning a 2014 study to collect data on which airports local fliers use for departures and their destinations.
Aguiar said the search for other airlines with different business models will continue.
“To attract more business in our area and to keep business in our area, convincing an airline is important,” Aguiar said. “There are opportunities out there. We need to find them and convince the airline that it's a viable option.”