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Nonstop Charleston-Orlando service returns to Yeager

Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores (right) presents West Virginia-grown apples to PEOPLExpress CEO Jeffrey Erickson at Wednesday’s event announcing flights from Yeager Airport to Orlando, Florida, starting Oct. 16. Erickson returned the gesture with a bunch of Florida oranges.

Low-cost startup carrier PEOPLExpress Airlines will begin offering nonstop service from Charleston’s Yeager Airport to Orlando International Airport starting Oct. 16.

The Charleston-Orlando flights will be aboard 134-seat Boeing 737 aircraft and will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Flights will depart Charleston at 3:50 p.m. each day and arrive in Orlando at 6 p.m. Return flights are scheduled to arrive at Yeager at 3:10 pm. each day after departing Orlando at 1:15.

A special inaugural fare of $49, plus taxes, each way, is now on sale through midnight Thursday. When that sale ends, one-way fares will be $79, PEOPLExpress CEO Jeffrey Erickson announced during a press conference at Yeager on Wednesday.

PEOPLExpress, based in Newport News, Va., began flight operations in June, with service to Pittsburgh, Boston, Newark, St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach, and recently added New Orleans to its route map.

The startup airline recently acquired the rights to the name “People Express,” a low-cost carrier that operated from 1981 to 1987 and helped bring the concept of no-frills, low cost flights to the flying public. “We plan to re-create that iconic brand that focused on low fares and great service,” Erickson said.

Orlando was the third-most popular destination for Charleston’s air travelers until AirTran dropped nonstop service between the two cities in 2012, when it merged with Southwest.

Like AirTran, PEOPLExpress will make use of CRW Services, Yeager’s in-house ground operations staffing service to handle check-in and baggage services.

A $700,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant Yeager was awarded last September will be used to help PEOPLExpress cover start-up costs at the Charleston airport, and for possible short-term revenue guarantees to the airline during off-peak travel seasons.

While Yeager officials have been pursuing a new carrier for the Orlando route for nearly one year, things fell into place quickly after the airport’s marketing team met with the airline’s flight network administrator and Erickson.

“We had dinner on Thursday night, met all day Friday, and I got a confirming email on Labor Day,” Atkinson said.

Unlike Yeager’s seasonal nonstop air service to Myrtle Beach via Spirit Airlines, the PEOPLExpress flights to Orlando will be year-round, making it possible for Floridians to escape the summer heat while West Virginians take breaks from snow and ice. The new nonstop service creates “a chance for people in Orlando to come here” to vacation, said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.

State Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin said her marketing staff will be targeting the Orlando area to promote vacationing in the Mountain State. “Any time new nonstop air service comes to West Virginia, promoting tourism here is a no-brainer,” she said. “It’s low-hanging fruit.”

Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores used fruit to officially welcome PEOPLExpress to the Charleston airport by presenting Erickson with a basket of West Virginia apples. Erickson returned by favor by giving Shores a crate of Florida oranges.

While there is no first-class section on PEOPLExpress flights to and from Orlando, the airline does offer “Living Large” seating for passengers needing extra space.

To book flights on PEOPLExpress, visit

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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