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Airport's lineup changes - again

St. Petersburg-Clearwater International sees one airline come and two go in just one week.

By STEVE HUETTEL
Published October 20, 2006


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It's been a week of easy come, easy go at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

Airport officials learned second-hand they'd gained a start-up airline, then found out that another had abruptly shut down before making its first flight next month. On Thursday, a longtime Canadian carrier said it would drop all Florida service, including flights from St. Petersburg to Toronto, next week.

The first bad news came from Fly Mission Air, a new airline that started selling tickets in September for flights to Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio.

The airline was supposed to make four weekly round-trip flights between St. Petersburg and the two cities starting Nov. 3. But Fly Mission Air officials told airport officials they "couldn't put it together" for the launch and might try again in the winter, said Noah Lagos, the airport's executive director.

No one from the airline, based in Hawaii, was available to comment Thursday. But an official with the company handling Fly Mission Air's Internet reservations said the airline canceled all flights and stopped booking tickets last week.

Customers received refunds to their credit cards, said Jim Gallagher, president of Aviation Technologies of Avoca. Pa., which booked Internet reservations for Fly Mission Air.

A week ago, start-up carrier SkyValue announced plans to begin flights from Chicago to five cities, including St. Petersburg, starting Dec. 1.

The news came as a surprise to Lagos, who saw the press release on a USA Today aviation Web log. SkyValue chief executive Darrell Richardson talked with airport officials, said Lagos, but hadn't committed to fly to St. Petersburg.

A spokeswoman for the airline did not return telephone messages Thursday. SkyValue began in Great Britain in 1994, with flights to Mediterranean destinations and Orlando.

The new U.S. arm will fly a 174-seat Boeing 737-800 out of Gary, Ind. from Dec. 1 to April 30 and could go year-round if the venture is successful, Richardson told the Times of northwest Indiana. The airline will make twice-weekly flights between Gary and St. Petersburg.

Conquest Vacations announced plans Thursday to pull its Skyservice brand flights out of Florida Nov. 1 and move them to "high volume Caribbean and Mexico routes." The airline flies four times weekly between St. Petersburg and Toronto.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or 813 226-3384.

[Last modified October 19, 2006, 23:27:05]


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