CLEVELAND — Alaska Airlines began flying nonstop between Cleveland and Seattle on Thursday.
Playing off the region’s area codes, Alaska Airline flight 2-1-6 touched down at Hopkins International Airport just before 5 p.m., with outbound flight 3-3-0 departing an hour and half later.
The flight was the first time Clevelanders could fly nonstop to Seattle since 2014, when United Airlines closed its hub here.
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Ticket demand is exceeding initial projections, thanks to travelers eager to head west.
“We are going to visit our grandson,” said Ann O’Neal of Sagamore Hills. “So, we are really happy and excited.”
O’Neal is happy to be avoiding connections.
“It’s wonderful, especially for husband who has problem walking,” she said.
Airport officials boasted Alaska Airline’s daily flights will generate $100 million for the region. The airline received state incentives to make the investment in the flight, which now provides 178 seats each way.
“It’s a good time to invest in our fair city and it’s a good time to take a nonstop flight to Seattle,” Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said, noting he's never been to Seattle.
Though demand for travel is growing, the airline industry is struggling to keep up because of employee shortages, which is limiting tickets and driving up prices.
Robert Kennedy, Cleveland’s outgoing port director, told 3News passenger traffic this year will fall just short of the 10 million passengers who traveled through the airport in 2019 before the pandemic. He said airline capacity is the only thing keeping more people from coming through the airport.
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Speaking before a crowd of passengers, Kennedy said, “As we have recovered from Covid better than the national average, success of flights like this happen.”
Kennedy added that passenger traffic has improved enough that the airport has recently told airlines it was reducing landing fees.
With demand strong right now, tickets are more expensive than before the pandemic. Today, a round trip to Seattle will cost $617 dollars.