By ANDREW SCHOTZ
11:13 AM EST, November 5, 2012
Commercial air service between Hagerstown Regional Airport and Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia started Monday, but with nearly empty planes.
In the morning, there were no customers on Sun Air’s first flight, from Dulles to Hagerstown, said Phil Ridenour, Hagerstown’s airport director.
The only passenger on the subsequent flight from Hagerstown to Dulles was with the Federal Aviation Administration, Ridenour said.
During the afternoon flights, one passenger flew from Dulles to Hagerstown and there were no passengers on the return flight from Hagerstown to Dulles, Ridenour said.
Sun Air’s service between Hagerstown and Dulles is replacing Cape Air’s flights between Hagerstown and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, which ended on Oct. 31 after more than three years.
In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved Sun Air to serve both Hagerstown and Lancaster Airport in Lititz, Pa., through Sept. 30, 2015.
Like Cape Air, Sun Air will provide local service as part of the federal Essential Air Service subsidy for communities that aren’t close to a major metro airport.
Also like Cape Air, Sun Air is using nine-passenger planes.
To start, Sun Air will fly two round-trips a day between Hagerstown and Dulles.
In early December, the frequency will increase to four round-trips each weekday, with two round-trips apiece on Saturday and Sunday.
Ridenour said the switch to Dulles service might appeal to travelers, especially if they are flying internationally.
Once travelers get to Dulles and are within a secured area, they don’t need to retrieve and recheck bags for connecting flights, he said.
Sun Air initially expected to start at Hagerstown on Nov. 1, making for a seamless transition after Cape Air departed.
However, the opening day was pushed back to Monday of this week, largely because of last week’s East Coast storm.
At Sun Air’s request, the service is starting slowly and low-key at Hagerstown. As the service increases next month, there likely will be an open house or similar celebratory event at the airport, Ridenour said.
The airport’s website didn’t even list Sun Air as the new carrier until it was updated late Friday or early Saturday, Ridenour said.
He said customers can book Sun Air flights through the airline’s website, www.pacificwings.com/sunair/sun, or the travel website www.orbitz.com.
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