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Atlanta air flights

Once upon a time, Bermuda thought it could afford to turn its nose up at low-cost airlines. If that was ever in fact true, it certainly is not now.

And credit has to be given to former Premier Dr Ewart Brown for his efforts to bring more airlines, low cost or otherwise, to Bermuda as a way of reducing the cost of air travel both to and from the Island.

Yesterday, Dr Brown's successors in the Tourism and Transport Ministries were able to announce that his and others' efforts to secure a new airline to fly to Atlanta had finally come to fruition, with the news that AirTran will service the Island from that city and from Baltimore next summer.

This is very positive news. Atlanta and the Baltimore/Washington markets are key for Bermuda tourism and their potential has never fully been explored. Increasing the number of visitors from these markets will reduce the dependence the Island has on the northeast and the increased airlift should result in additional visitors to the Island.

Of course, that has not always been the case. But there are good reasons to think that this will be successful. The Washington-Baltimore area has been less badly hurt by the recession than many other US regions, and Bermuda's close proximity also makes the Island attractive.

Atlanta has been harder hit, according to the Brookings Institution, but it is an important hub and gateway to the south and west of the US. Further, the fact that airfares will certainly fall in this area is also important. People in the market who might have recoiled at the fares charged by a monopoly carrier may well look twice.

It will be important for AirTran to market its services in Bermuda as well as from the US. This is the mistake that WestJet made this year when it started its Toronto service, and while its arrival certainly forced Air Canada's airfares down, it failed to secure enough of the Bermuda market to make the route a success.

There are still some unanswered questions about the flights, although these may become clearer in the next few days. It's not yet known what fares will be offered, only that they will certainly be lower than the current fares on the route. It is also not known what kind of aircraft it plans to use, although it will likely be either a 117-seat Boeing 717 or a 137-seat Boeing 737.

But overall, this is a welcome development. Atlanta is one of the few remaining routes not to have competition, and this announcement, by Transport Minister Terry Lister and Tourism Minister Patrice Minors, should give Bermuda's 2011 tourism year a better chance of success.

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Published December 08, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 11, 2010 at 7:40 am)

Atlanta air flights

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