South Bend, Ind. ExpressJet is taking a big bite out of the travel time between the Big Apple and South Bend. “I’m to tears excited,” said frequent flier Lauren Nassau, a Philadelphia native, who now lives in South Bend.
On October 27th, ExpressJet (an affiliate of United Airlines) will start offering daily flights between South Bend and New York (actually Newark, New Jersey). The total travel time is estimated to be about two hours and three minutes.
“It brings me back home to my family and my friends,” said Nassau. “It gets them to come here, I don't have to meet them in Chicago.”
The connecting flight situation is now so bad now that Nassau says she usually drives to the east coast. The road trip typically takes 11 and a half hours.
Nassau came to the South Bend Regional airport today with her credit card in hand, eager to be the first to buy a ticket.
“On the 30th its officially $323.00 is the cost, and it’s going to be, you can go and come the same day,” Nassau said. “To drop from Newark right now, to get here, my brother just booked a flight on United and it’s a little over $800. If you want to fly to Chicago and then come here, so it’s $800 plus seven hours of time.”
Today, the getting was good, but truth is, the new South Bend to New York service is a use it or lose it proposition. “If they have enough usage it certainly will continue, if it doesn’t, it’ll stop,” said St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Rea. “So, again, that’s why the community has to rally behind supporting it.”
Much like previous nonstop service from South Bend to the likes of Denver and Indianapolis that has since been discontinued, the New York flights will begin on a wing, a prayer, a federal grant, and a possible subsidy.
“The vehicle that we've entered into with them is called the minimum revenue guarantee, so if people are flying it, it doesn't cost the airport a penny,” said St. Joseph County Airport Authority Executive Director Mike Daigle. “Now if people don't use it we have to start paying some dollars to keep the service subsidized.”
The current subsidy agreement is for one year, with an option to add a second. That provides a rough deadline for demand to develop.
“I definitely will be using this service,” said South Bend Deputy Mayor Mark Neal. “I do fly to New York at least once a quarter. We have family there but I also have some investments there that I need to keep track of and I'm out there usually once a quarter just briefly to go in, go out for a meeting. This is really convenient for me. And I think for many, many business folks.”
The flights will leave South Bend at 6:20 a.m. and arrive in Newark at 8:23 a.m.
The return trip leaves Newark at 7:00 p.m. and lands in South Bend at 9:15 p.m.
The flights will run six days a week—Sunday through Friday.
“When we’re marketing our area to folks, they want to know how easy it is to get here,” said Jeff Rea, President of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce. “And having that connection to New York is pretty significant, we think. In terms of getting them here, whether you’re flying overseas internationally into Newark and t hen want to come here, or whether you’re flying domestically here, it’s really a significant thing.”