A new airline is coming to South Bend to offer flights to the New York area.
Florida based Azul Airlines today announced that it would offer non stop flights between South Bend and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, starting June 2nd.
The introductory fare will be $69 per one way trip.
“Start spreading the news,” said Jennifer Schoen, Marketing Director for Azul Airlines. “Air Azul is pleased to announce direct air service from South Bend to New York.”
The announcement of an east coast connection out of South Bend was a festive one, featuring big apples, apple replica cookies, and buttons that read “I love New York.”
“I’m excited about it, I really am,” said John Schalliol, the Director of the Airport Authority. “This has been our number one deficiency as long as I’ve been here at the airport. We’ve never had a non-stop service into the New York area.”
Oddly enough, the announcement comes at a time when the South Bend Regional Airport has posted back to back, double digit decreases in passenger counts during January and February.
“With the continuing contraction of the major airlines, we have to look at what’s been working and not working and where is the need and the want for direct air service from smaller secondary markets,” said Schoen.
The news appears to be something to ‘cheer, cheer” about for athletes at the University of Notre Dame. Members of the Olympic sports teams typically begin a road trip by riding a bus to one of the Chicago airports.
“Being a member of the Big East (athletic conference) there’s a number of teams we play, at least a minimum of five in that immediate area, northern Jersey and New York,” said Tony Yelovich with the Notre Dame Athletic Department. “I think the coaches are going to be very pleased with the scenario as well because it’s going to save time on travel.”
Today’s announcement that Air Azul would come to South Bend was actually the result of talks between airline representatives and members of the university athletic department in January. The close relationship is reflected in Air Azul’s pledge to donate one dollar per passenger to the Melissa Cook Foundation. Melissa Cook was a 1994 graduate of Notre Dame, and one of four people killed in March of 2002 when a massive section of scaffolding fell from the John Hancock Center onto her car in downtown Chicago. Cook was also a member of the Notre Dame Softball team. Notre Dame’s new women’s softball stadium bears her name and was a gift from Cook’s mother and stepfather.
A fair number of Notre Dame fans might also be expected to fill some Air Azul seats. “The biggest concentration of Notre Dame Alums is in the New York area,” said John Schalliol. “They’re talking about adding a special flight on home football weekends: come in Saturday morning, go home Saturday night.”
Air Azul will use 162-seat jetliners provided by Sun Country Airlines to make the South Bend to Newark runs.
“We’re going to be flying Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays,” said Schoen. The planes are expected to depart South Bend at 8:37 p.m.
South Bend is one of five new cities in line to receive Air Azul service. Earlier this week the airline announced service in Rockford, Illinois, and Toledo, Ohio. Two other cities will be announced in the days to come.
While the name of the airline may sound exotic, it was formed to begin commuter service in Kentucky. Azul is the Spanish word meaning “blue.” Azul Airlines has a Florida mailing address.
Air Azul’s website is www.FlyTheNewBlue.com.