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Arnold Palmer Regional Airport adds daily, nonstop flights

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport's flight schedules got a boost on Tuesday with the announcement that Spirit Airlines will begin daily, nonstop flights between Latrobe and Orlando, Fla., beginning May 17.

"We are excited to expand our offering of ultra-low fares to customers traveling between Pennsylvania and central Florida, and giving even more consumers the opportunity to save money on travel," said Mark Kopczak, Spirit's senior director of network planning.

The new route will expand on the Spirit's current commercial flight offerings from the airport to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The success of the airline at the Westmoreland facility began last February when nonstop flights debuted four days a week to and from Fort Lauderdale and seasonal service was offered to Myrtle Beach.

Because of the success of the flights, Spirit announced it will offer flights between Arnold Palmer and Myrtle Beach seven days a week from June 2012 until early September.

"This is wonderful news. I think that this new service will be very successful, just as the traffic to Fort Lauderdale and Mrytle Beach has been the past year," said golf legend Arnold Palmer. A Latrobe native, Palmer is a long-time member of the county airport authority, which operates the airport that bears his name.

"Orlando and central Florida have so many great attractions, and we have a lot to offer visitors here in Western Pennsylvania as well," Palmer said.

Last year, a record, 31,554 commercial passengers flew out of the local airport and some 31,967 passengers flew into Latrobe.

The figure still pales in comparison to the state's two busiest commercial airports, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, that tallied 15.3 million and 4 million enplanements -- the combined number of passengers arriving and departing -- respectively, in 2010, according to a PennDOT study.

But the Westmoreland airfield is quickly closing in on the sixth busiest commercial airport in the state, Erie International Airport/Tom Ridge Field, which had 127,284 enplanements in 2010.

Donald Rossi, county airport authority chairman, believes the Latrobe facility's traffic numbers will dramatically increase with the new flights.

The Orlando flights will originate daily in Orlando, departing at 2:40 p.m. and arriving at Arnold Palmer Regional at 5 p.m. The return flight to Orlando will depart Latrobe at 5:50 p.m., arriving in Orlando at 8:05 p.m., according to the airline.

"It's going to be a real boon, not only to the airport, but to the entire community," Rossi said.

"This has been a work in progress here for years, and fortunately, we have a lot of things already in place so we can take advantage of the growth," Rossi said.

Work is expected to be completed this spring on an $825,000 expansion of airport parking that will increase available spaces from 900 to more than 1,100. Parking is free.

"We may have to expand that parking lot again," Rossi said. "We're becoming the gateway to the South."

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