Surprise: American Airlines extends Daytona-D.C. service; now set for March AND April

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DAYTONA BEACH — In a surprise move, American Airlines has decided to extend its trial period of offering weekly nonstop Daytona Beach-Washington, D.C., flights from one month to two.

The decision announced late Monday comes more than a month before those Saturday flights are set to begin in March. The airline will now offer flights to and from the nation's capital on Saturdays through the end of April.

"The route planners with American Airlines have told us the D.C. flights are likely to be extended through May as well," said Joanne Magley, the airport's director of air service, marketing and customer experience. "This is great news for tourism in Volusia County."

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Departing passengers line up at the baggage check-in counter for American Airlines at Daytona Beach International Airport in December 2020. The airline recently informed the airport that it plans to offer once-a-week nonstop flights to and from Washington, D.C., each Saturday in March 2022. If those flights do well, American could extend that service, airport officials say.
Departing passengers line up at the baggage check-in counter for American Airlines at Daytona Beach International Airport in December 2020. The airline recently informed the airport that it plans to offer once-a-week nonstop flights to and from Washington, D.C., each Saturday in March 2022. If those flights do well, American could extend that service, airport officials say.

Magley said officials with American told her that the Saturday flights in March are already nearly 50% filled, with more than a month to go before the first flight on March 5. American will use a 76-seat Canadair Regional Jet via its regional carrier American Eagle for those flights.

American will begin offering seats on its Daytona Beach-Washington, D.C. flights in April on Saturday.

On Tuesday, American's website allowed a travelers to book a single seat on the roundtrip nonstop flight on March 5 with a return flight the following Saturday for $144. The 2-hour, 3-minute flight departs from Daytona Beach International Airport at 11:16 a.m. and arrives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, at 1:19 p.m. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

"The more that people use these seasonal flights, that increases our changes of getting more new routes and new airlines," said Magley.

American offers multiple daily flights throughout the year from Daytona Beach to its hub airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. This spring, the airline will bring back seasonal daily nonstop service to two more destinations: Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, beginning March 3, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beginning March 27.

Other airlines, not just American, will be looking to see how much demand the seasonal flights to and from Daytona Beach generates, Magley added.

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Nancy Lohman, the Ormond Beach philanthropist who serves as president of the nonprofit Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund Inc., said she and her husband Lowell are hopeful that American will extend its nonstop service to Washington, D.C. through the end of May.

"We've requested (Wednesday) May 18 for the unveiling of the statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in the Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building," she said. "While that date has not yet been confirmed, that day in 1955 was when Dr. Bethune (the founder of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach) passed. She will be the first African-American to represent a state with a statue in Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building."

"We expect to have at least 50 to 70 individual major donors flying up with us, some of whom have said they hope to spend the entire week there to see the sights in Washington, D.C.," said Lohman. "That (American Airlines) flight would be ideal for them (the donors) and for us. We're certainly hopeful that American will extend those flights through at least May, if not longer."

Locals can already fly to Washington, D.C., via American Airlines any day of the week, but those flights from Daytona Beach would require catching a connecting flight in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Passenger traffic numbers nearly back to pre-COVID levels

In other news, Daytona Beach International Airport reported that its passenger traffic in December rose to 50,274 travelers on arriving and departing flights, up 70.8% from 29.432 the same month in 2020. The latest passenger traffic numbers were still down from pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, said Magley. In December 2019, the airport counted 57,221 arriving and departing air travelers.

For the full year, the airport had 576,637 passengers in 2021, up 73.25% from 332,835 in 2020, but still down 19.2% from 713,287 in 2019.

The airport had six cancelled flights in December because of COVID-19. All were with Delta Air Lines, which offers multiple daily flights to and from its hub airport in Atlanta, Georgia. For all of 2021, the airport had 33 COVID-related flight cancellations, including 27 by American.

"2021 was a pretty good year for us if you consider what happened with the air travel industry as a whole," said Magley. "But we're still not out of the effects of the pandemic."

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: American Airlines extends Daytona to Washington D.C. nonstop service