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March 25, 2021

Slew of new flights creates a 'transformational moment' for Portland Jetport

small jet airplane on a runway Courtesy / United Airlines United Airlines will soon more than double the number of routes it flies to and from Portland. Most of the carrier's expanded service will be in new 50-seat, two-cabin jets like this.

While air traffic is still down because of the pandemic, Maine’s busiest airport may get busier in May when United Airlines more than doubles the number of routes it flies out of Portland International Jetport.

The air carrier, which currently has four nonstop flights to and from PWM, will add six more, including to three cities in Ohio, according to a news release Thursday: Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.

The new flights begin May 27 and will continue through Labor Day, Sept. 6. Most will be scheduled at least three days a week. In addition, United said it will expand its current weekend flights between Portland and Denver into a daily service, starting June 4.

“This is a transformational moment for the Jetport, and for the Portland market,” Airport Director Paul Bradbury said in the release. “Given the pandemic and the real shift to leisure traffic, United is focusing on providing convenient nonstop options from several key markets in the Midwest that historically would have connected through a hub.”

Bradbury recently told Mainebiz that passenger volumes were way down last year, "and well below anything I've experienced in over 28 years of work at the Jetport." And despite a recent uptick, February passenger volume at PWM, 43,000 travelers, was less than a third of the volume in February 2020, before the pandemic.

Nevertheless, United and other carriers are making plans to touch down more frequently in Maine.

Earlier this month, Frontier Airlines said it will launch nonstop service between Portland and Tampa, Fla., in April. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines both previously announced new summer flights of their own to and from Portland. At Bangor International Airport, Allegiant Air will launch a new nonstop service in May to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

American is currently the carrier with the greatest number of nonstop routes from Portland, seven. But with its additional flights, United will serve 10 nonstop destinations from the Jetport.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said, “Visitors to Portland eat in our restaurants, stay in our hotels, and spend dollars in our community. This announcement by United allows us to connect much more quickly with our Midwest friends and family, and at the same time creates new jobs right here in Portland."

Ankit Gupta, United vice president of domestic network planning and scheduling, added, "With many customers now beginning to plan summer vacations in places where they can enjoy time outside, we look forward to offering new service to Portland, Maine."

The Portland flights are part of a nationwide service expansion United announced Thursday in a separate news release.

"In the past few weeks, we have seen the strongest flight bookings since the start of the pandemic," Gupta said in that release. "As we rebuild our schedule to meet that demand, adding in seasonal point-to-point flying is just one of the ways we are finding opportunities.”

Even with the additional routes in May, however, United expects to operate only 52% of the schedule it flew in May 2019.

In its release, United said most of the new flights will be made in a new type of jet, the world’s first 50-seat plane with two cabins. The Bombardier CRJ-550 has 10 first-class seats, 20 “economy plus” seats and 20 standard seats.

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