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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


American Airlines starts nonstop, daily flights from Tucson to New York

Selena Quintanilla
An American Airlines aircraft takes off from the Tucson International Airport on Monday, Oct. 3.

Tucson International Airport will begin offering a daily non-stop flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on American Airlines starting Oct. 6.

The flight leaves at 8:15 a.m. local time and arrives in New York at 4:02 p.m. Eastern time. Fares for a one-way ticket start at $365, according to American Airline’s online reservation website. The return flight leaves at 5 p.m. Eastern time and arrives in Tucson at 7:34 p.m. local time.

The inauguration of this route has been almost three years in the making, according to TIA’s Senior Director of Business Development and Marketing, David Hatfield. The Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce created a task force to help start the process. 

They approached every airline at TIA that currently has flights to New York, plus two outside airlines, Hatfield said. Finally, American Airlines took interest.

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But that was just the start. The task force, led by Bill Assenmacher of Caid Construction and Humberto Lopez of HSL Properties, collaborated with the Tucson business community and put together roughly $3 million for insurance protection. This means that the airline can tap into this fund if the flights don’t fill to capacity.

According to Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, the flight fulfills a demand that exists in Tucson for the tourism industry, the UA and for the business community. The route also creates a direct connection between Tucson and the east coast, something that was not possible before. 

“The importance of the flight to Tucson is actually turning out more than what I thought,” Rothschild said. “I don’t think that you can say directly that this flight produces jobs, but I think what you can say is that to have that ease of connection between Tucson and the east coast makes every chance for the economy to get better.”

Visit Tucson, a local tourism company, said that people who visit from New York are likely to stay longer, thus spend more money, Hatfield said. This holds true even more for European tourists. The non-stop flight to New York also opens Tucson to the gateway of Europe, and because the flight leaves in the morning and arrives in the early afternoon, unlike many West Coast city flights to New York that are red-eyes, travelers have the opportunity to catch connecting flights across the Atlantic. Hatfield said that American Airlines is impressed by the strong sales that include European connections so far.

“This basically shows us that Tucson is a strong market—American Airlines now believes it—so we’ve got things happening in the economy and this sort of just emphasizes that point,” Hatfield said. “It’s a vote of confidence in us and the economy and how it’s grown and it feeds right back into things.”

For UA students from the New York City area, this direct flight eases travel logistics. Before those students would have to drive to the airport in Phoenix, two hours away, to catch a non-stop flight. Now, they can leave right from Tucson. 

For Carlee Bodner, a family studies and human development junior from Long Island, this flight is extremely convenient.

“I’m really excited that there are now direct flights from Tucson to New York,” Bodner said. “I think that these flights are going to be convenient for students that are from New York because it will provide less travel time.”

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TIA also launched a non-stop flight to Hermosillo, Mexico on Oct. 3, making it a busy week full of new flights. The Hermosillo flight is significant because it gets more people involved since the customs facilities inside the airport had to start up again, Hatfield said, and it connects to a sizeable hub in Mexico. 

Both new non-stop flights—New York and Hermosillo—present logistical advantages that have the opportunity to establish Tucson as a more versatile hub. 

Rothschild said that now that American Airlines is in the mix with New York, the Tucson Airport Authority can go back to the list of which cities are in demand, a list constructed by analysts hired to gauge the market. He said that the city is in talks with a number of other cities about establishing non-stop flights and that he especially hopes to connect back to the Washington D.C. and Baltimore area.  

For the airport, the Tucson community, the tourism industry, the business community and the economy overall, this new non-stop flight opens a lot of doors, Rothschild said. 

“We’re just very excited,” Hatfield said. “It’s a big deal here for the airport. And for people who work on things like this for so long, it feels good to know there’s money coming into the economy here and we’re getting some traction. We’re moving ahead now, finally.”

Follow Leah Merrall on Twitter.

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