MANCHESTER — Delta Air Lines is about to begin regional jet service from Manchester to New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
Delta is taking over the route from US Airways and hopes to offer up to three flights daily by this summer, said Tom Malafronte, assistant director of the Manchester airport.
An informal celebration is planned before the first Delta flight’s scheduled departure at 6:50 a.m. Sunday, arriving at LaGuardia at 8 a.m. Delta plans to start with one LaGuardia flight, add a second in June and a third by July as it tries to expand its service out of both LaGuardia and JFK Airport in Queens.
“We’re elated,” Malafronte said Thursday. “When we look at some of the top markets that are served out of Manchester, New York right now doesn’t even make the top 30.”
Malafronte said Delta’s 50-seat regional jets are a little faster and more comfortable than the turboprops US Airways flies between Manchester and New York. Expanding the service between the cities will give travelers many more options for connections both domestically and internationally, Malafronte said, adding that it could eventually lead to flights on full-size jets if the Manchester-LaGuardia move is a success.
Delta announced it was taking over the Manchester-LaGuardia route in December in an exchange with US Airways for takeoff and landing rights at LaGuardia and Reagan National Airport in Washington. US Airways will continue its Manchester-LaGuardia turboprop flights until mid-July, when the route becomes exclusively Delta’s.
“The challenge now is for them (Delta) to price it right and for the loads to remain strong so we can work our way up to three flights,” Malafronte said.
Delta expanded its non-stop service from Manchester to Detroit last year, gradually increasing from three flights in the winter season to seven during the peak summer months. The addition of LaGuardia will give Delta non-stop flights to three hubs, joining Detroit and Atlanta.
Manchester’s airport took a hit in January when Southwest dropped its Manchester-Philadelphia route. If Delta’s Manchester-LaGuardia expansion goes as planned, Malafronte said it will be good all around for New England travelers trying to keep up with the ever-changing airline industry.
“There’s no more plugging in a schedule and that’s the schedule for the whole year,” Malafronte said. “It’s amazing. It’s tough to keep your hands around sometimes.”